Mural project unveiled in Vanceburg, Ky.

By Portia Williams

July 2, 2014

By Portia Williams


VANCEBURG, Ky. — A mural project depicting the city of Vanceburg, Ky., 50 years ago, was recently unveiled for public viewing. Through a grant written by the Center for Appalachian Philanthropy (AppaPhil) funding was obtained for the project from the Brushy Fork Institute Flex-E-Grant program and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

Joni Pugh, Center for AppaPhil Project Development said the mural project in Vanceburg was was first the idea of local artist Danny McCane.

“Actually, the idea to do the project materialized about three or four by a local artist named Danny McCane who talked with at that time the Renaissance board about doing a mural. We just didn’t have funding at the time, and then when the center for Appalachian Philanthropy came into Lewis County and started doing work here, Mandy Hart, our executive director here wrote a grant, and we were able to obtain some funding to do that,” Pugh said. “What he wanted to do was honor his brother Joe whose picture is on part of the mural who was killed in a fire some years back, maybe in the last 10 to 12 years. There were six children in their family, I believed but he and his brother Joe and his other siblings would run around downtown. He remembered those days, and kind of wanted to memorialize all of that in this mural.”

In addition to his brother Joe McCane, she said Danny wanted to also honor former fire chief Jim Switzer.

“So it says on the top, ‘Welcome to Main Street,’ and it has the picture of Joe on the left side of the mural. He also wanted to honor our former fire chief, Jim ‘Bubbles’” Switzer, because at one time, he’d saved the life of Danny’s grandaughter. Mr. Switzer passed away a few years ago as well. So that is kind of how the whole idea got started, we just wanted to honor both of them, and their pictures are on either sides of the mural. In the middle of the mural is, ‘Welcome to Main Street,’ depicting the area 50 years ago,” she said.

She said they are pleased with the outcome of the mural project, and take pride in what it represents.

“We are very proud of the mural, it is beautiful, and they did a wonderful job on it. We have been doing lot of work here, between the city and the county Appalachian Philanthropy, trying to sort of restructure things a little bit in town. The murals show the time where the town was thriving, lots of things were happening here,” she said. “We probably won’t have another shoe factory, or some of the things that we did have, but it is a different time, and we just have hopes that we’re going to change things around, and kind of fill up the empty buildings in town, and bring back those days when Vanceburg was thriving.”

Robert Dafford, world renowned muralist, was commissioned through a National Endowment for the Arts grant to come to Vanceburg and work with Danny and Suzanne Pick, another local artist, to advise them on the concept of mural painting.

“Through the grant we were able to get the expertise of Robert Dafford, who did the murals in Portsmouth, and in many other places. He came to town and worked with Danny McCane and another local artist, Suzanne Pick to teach them the technique of painting a mural, since it is very different than the kinds of painting that they were doing, they were used to working with smaller things. So, he came to town and stayed for a couple of weeks to work with them, and then they continued on with the project,” she said.

She said the murals were actually completed last year, but the unveiling was delayed due to road repairs that were taking place at the time.

“Our streets were really torn up last year. We had new sidewalks put in, so it was not a good time to hang the murals up because of the streets and sidewalks all being torn up,” she said.

The mural project was officially unveiled on Saturday, June 28. The day’s event also included the re-opening of the Vanceburg Depot Museum.

According to Pugh, Howard McCann, a former resident, had obtained the old Concord and Covedale post offices which he installed in the Depot to add to their collection of memorabilia.

Promenade Theater was utilized along Main Street in front of some of the businesses pictured in the mural. Kayla Stafford, the drama director at Lewis County High School, taught an “Acting Boot Camp” for the newly emerging Lewis County Children’s Center for the Fine and Performing Arts and her children from the class were involved in the vignettes.

Members of the Lewis County Theatre Guild, under the direction of Dr. Richard Geer, founder of Community Performance International, and author of the “Story Bridge”, also participated in the play.

She said the construction of the mural was a true community accomplishment which is an example of what residents can achieve when they work together for a common goal.

A team from Center for Appalachian Philanthropy (AppaPhil) gathered stories from local historians about Main Street during that time frame for the theatre production.

Other residents brought in their vintage cars to park along Main Street. Roger Kelly donated his time along with members of his construction team to erect the mural.

“With the site of the mural changed at the last minute, this was quite a feat. Through the generosity of Jerald Witten, we were able to utilize a great location. A local attorney, Lloyd Spear, donated his time to draw up the necessary paperwork, and the Electric Plant Board placed the poles in the ground for the mural,” she said.

Portia Williams can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 286, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.