Celebrate Community: Historic Laurel

Kids join artist in creation of wall mural
2010-08-15T17:54:00Z 2010-08-15T19:04:46Z Celebrate Community: Historic LaurelCHELSEA KROTZER Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
August 15, 2010 5:54 pm  • 

LAUREL — It’s not unusual for a person to love something material — a car, a book or a new favorite sweater.

Artist Gary Larsen fell in love with a wall. Not just any wall, but the wall of a building bordering Laurel’s town square.

“It was a wall facing south, right on a park,” Larsen said. “I had an idea immediately ready for it.”

A few months ago, the wall wasn’t much to look at — just wood paneling with a few chips and cracks.

Now that wall has been transformed, providing a window into Laurel’s past, when antique cars and horses ruled the dirt roads.

Larsen was inspired by an early 1900s photograph taken from the railroad tracks facing Laurel’s First Avenue.

“I saw it at a grocery store a year ago,” Larsen said. “I have several antique cars and really enjoy painting and drawing them.”

Amos Lee, of the Laurel Alive Committee, has known Larsen for most of his life. With Larsen’s interest and vision, all the committee needed was funding.

“It’s been a lot of work and a huge fundraising effort,” Lee said, adding the group raised $8,000 of its $15,000 goal so far. “It’s been well received from the get-go. If it was something more abstract, it would be hard for people to identify the way they have.”

Identifying with the project has been no problem for some local people — a group of about 10 children were watching and learning earlier during an art workshop Larsen held.

It was the second workshop he’s held since the start of the project in late June.

Lee’s daughter, Sophie, 9, was among the students. It was her second time taking the class.

“I wanted to do art because I just wanted to learn better,” Sophie said. “I’m not that good of an artist, and probably won’t ever be, but I wanted to learn.”

Sophie and her fellow classmates learned the art of cross-hatching, a way of adding shade and tonal effects by drawing angled lines.

Larsen uses the technique on the mural.

Larsen asked the class to paint possible additions to the mural that would be historically accurate. They painted trains, cats and a motorcycle jumping off a ramp into a ring of fire.

The last item was a bit of a stretch, but was well received by the class.

Sophie painted two boys playing with a hoop and a stick, a popular pastime for children in the early 1900s.

“There aren’t really any kids in the mural right now,” Sophie said. “I want to add some girls jumping rope.”

While the goal of the piece was to keep it historically accurate, a few artistic adjustments have been made as the mural, which measures 10 feet by 44 feet, is finished. Larsen said that could take up to a month.

“Everyone thinks that it’s almost done, and it’s not really,” Larsen said.

Contact Chelsea Krotzer at ckrotzer@billingsgazette.com or 657-1392.

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