A Hays artist’s project in the works honors the area’s 150 years of military history.
Dennis Schiel is about two weeks into the mural on the north side of the VFW building at 22nd and Vine. On a base of an American flag, he has painted images depicting Buffalo Soldiers from Hays’ frontier days, an image of combat in World War I and, representing World War II, an aerial view of a B-29 bomber over Walker Army Air Base.
Additional panels on the mural will represent the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the desert wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Schiel will also include the seals for each branch of the military.
“Most of the stuff I do is real small, so this is kind of a release. Except when the weather is 105,” he said with a laugh Wednesday morning.
Although Wednesday started cloudy, temperatures were already in the 80s early in the day, and rain threatened to move in later in the morning.
He expects he’ll finish the mural in mid to late August.
The 10-by-50 foot painting is much smaller than Schiel’s last big project — the 35-by-60 foot Hays icons mural on the side of Fox Pavilion on Main Street — but isn’t proving to necessarily be an easier job.
“That brick was smooth,” Schiel said of the Fox. “This stuff is so porous.”
He initially figured the base of the mural would require 2.5 gallons of paint.
“It took almost 8 gallons for the base,” he said.
The mural, like the icons project, was commissioned by the Hays Arts Council.
Arts council director Brenda Meder said the murals allow the council to further one of its missions of providing public art without impeding public access on the sidewalks.
“Our walkway spaces in downtown are fairly narrow, so we’ve never really undertaken things like sculptures on the sidewalk like a lot of communities have,” she said. “So it’s a wonderful way to document who and what we are.”
The $20,000 VFW mural will be paid for through donations rather than any general operation funds for the HAC.
“No funds ever contributed as underwriting and sponsorship of the Hays Arts Council has anything to do with these projects. It’s completely separate accounts, entities, projects,” Meder said.
“Those are always funds expressly generated by these outside entities that are the organizers of the project.”
The non-profit HAC acts as a fiscal agent for projects like this and a bronze piece at Smoky Hills Country Club, she said.
“It’s nice if in making that contribution to the community, it can also get you a little benefit in the form of a tax-deductible contribution,” she said.
Schiel had planned on a mural for the city water tower as his next project, but the discovery of lead in the existing paint has delayed that effort.
The water tower was built in 1972, prior to the ban on using and manufacturing lead-based paints due to health concerns, Tim Huck, city of Hays water superintendent, said.
“It’s been painted since then, but they just put paint over the top of it. But now the layers of paint are flaking off. If you just put new paint on it, it won’t last so it needs to be taken down to the bare metal,” he said.
“You can’t just sand blast lead paint into the air, so it involves putting a tent over the entire water tower and collecting all the dust,” he said.
Huck said he expects the project to be open to bids at some point next year, with work beginning the year after that.