JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s Bicentennial Mural celebrating 200 years of statehood will be unveiled next month at the Harry S. Truman State Office Building.
The massive 12-by-30-foot mural was painted by 16,116 people and took two and a half years to complete. The painting originated at the Painted Wren Art Gallery in Cape Girardeau and features 19 state symbols, including the Missouri Capitol and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The painting was donated by its lead artist as a gift to the people of Missouri.
That lead artist, Aaron Horrel, says the painting unofficially broke the world record for the number of painters on one mural, comfortably beating out the previous record of just over 13,000 painters, if confirmed. Horrell has reached out to the Guinness Book of World Records to provide documentation and proof of the number of contributors, and is awaiting a response.
Horrell says he came up with the idea for the piece over two years ago after hearing the Bicentennial Committee and State Historical Society were looking for a project to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Missouri’s statehood.
After having created several murals with “Paint for a Cause,” a project dedicated to the residents of the Missouri Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau, Horrell and his partner Barb Bailey began planning phases for the bicentennial mural.
The pair are designated as “The Best of Missouri Hands” by the Missouri Artisans Association, a statewide nonprofit “dedicated to the development and recognition of Missouri’s artists through education, interaction and encouragement,” according to its website.
Horrell traveled around Missouri and allowed anyone who wanted to participate to paint a 2-inch right triangle on the mural, including Gov. Mike Parson.
“I got to help the governor paint,” Horrell said. “To hand him a paint brush and say ‘You paint here,’ was very exciting to me. When he finished he looked at me and asked, ‘Can I paint another one?’ I said, ‘No, everybody is treated the same here,’’ and we both laughed. He said he really enjoyed it and that was awesome.”
A few months later, Horrell was invited to the Governor’s Mansion to allow First Lady Teresa Parson to paint her portion. She was allowed to paint two right triangles, which Horrell says quickly became a joke between him and the governor.
The mural’s statewide tour included visits to Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve, West Plains, Jefferson City, Joplin and even as far north as Trenton. Horrell also visited five different schools in Dent County, offering students a chance to add to the project.
After it was all said and done, individuals from 35 states, 17 countries and over 300 Missouri towns got the chance to fill in their own triangle on the mural – all without the painting having to leave the Show-Me State once.
“We had little children – and the youngest was 12 days old – holding a paintbrush,” Horrell said. “She just grabbed onto it instinctively and her daddy moved her arm and she painted. The oldest lady was 102.”
Those interested in more information on Missouri’s Bicentennial mural can contact Horrell at 573-579-1000.