Painting On the Walls: Murals of Downtown Mansfield Since 1880
Ever since the Upper Paleolithic epoch of history, communities of human beings all over the planet have been painting pictures on the walls.
Mansfield humans have been engaged in this movement of public pictorial expression for roughly 140 years. Our city has a heritage and a legacy of decorative, symbolic and informative art presented in its downtown forum.
In fact the whole of downtown has been something of a gallery for creative expression: both sanctioned and spontaneous.
As the 21st century ensues and downtown Mansfield is once again embracing its role as a venue for creative new public murals, it is time to take a look at a virtual gallery of older paintings on the walls of the city.
One feature attraction of downtown Mansfield in 1880 was the stunning mural commissioned by Abram Heineman to be displayed on the front of his Fourth Street stable and livery. As a successful dealer in horses, both locally and in the major cities of the east, his 10’ x 10’ painting of a Norman stallion Draft Horse served not only as advertising, but also as a celebration and icon of his equine genius.
Mansfield’s most famous and least obvious downtown pictographic icon was painted in 1939 on the Biddle Building by George Biddle. For more background on this landmark:
In 1976 a small cadre of artists and downtown property owners assembled in coalition to found an organization called MURAL, which stood for Mansfield Urban Restorative Art League.
Dismayed at the ugly, scarred walls being revealed as buildings were removed from the streetscape, the consortium of creative thinkers resolved to undertake a program of metamorphosis: transforming unsightly brick faces into art.
Their first project was the Kafer Building at the corner of Third and Mulberry Streets.
A huge wall was revealed on North Main Street when its neighboring address was reduced to a parking lot, and MURAL undertook to turn the eyesore into a painting. The abstract city skyline image with time-lapse sun symbols was designed by architect Tim Alexander and painted in 1976.