'Brush the Bricks' brings new murals to Hays

Tim Hrenchir
Hays Daily News
The first artwork from the 'Brush the Bricks' movement is being developed by Hays artist Dennis Schiel on the side of the S&W Supply building at 300 E. 8th.

Old West figures from Hays' past, a colorful Chinese dragon and Special Olympics athletes competing will be among images highlighted on eight to 10 artworks to be created over the next two years in the city's downtown area.

The project — titled "Brush the Bricks, a Mural Movement" — is a partnership involving the Downtown Hays Development Corp., Hays Arts Council, Hays Convention & Visitors Bureau and Fort Hays State University.

The effort seeks to "transform blank canvases, our buildings, into spectacular, world-class artwork that invigorates tourism and community pride," according to its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/brushthebricks

Melissa Dixon, executive director of the Hays Convention & Visitors Bureau, stressed Thursday that works of public art — and murals in particular — tend to attract visitors. 

"People seek them out and get their pictures taken with them, and then they show those on social media," she said. "That's free advertising for us."

The project seeks to invigorate tourism and reinvigorate community pride while encouraging people to come downtown "if they haven't been in a while," said Sara Bloom, executive director of the Downtown Hays Development Corp.

The effort also spotlights the importance of art in the Hays community while showcasing some of the community's greatest artistic talents, she said.

The project's anticipated cost is $150,000, of which $90,000 has been committed, Bloom said.

She said donations are being requested from the public and may be made on the project's Facebook page or by going to www.paypal.me/DowntownHays, then putting "Mural Movement" in the notes.

Work is already in progress on the first artwork, a mural that Hays artist Dennis Schiel is painting on the side of the S&W Supply building at 300 E. 8th.

That work, called "The Three Amigos," will include images of Buffalo Bill Cody, who once lived at Hays; Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who was stationed at Fort Hays; and Wild Bill Hickok, who was Ellis County sheriff. It is expected to be completed next month.

Schiel has played a key role in arranging financing for the project, according to its Facebook site.

Some of the works will created by professional artists, others by community members teaming up.

Not all the artworks will be paintings. The project will include the creation of metal art installations in areas where murals probably wouldn't last long because of direct sunshine, Bloom said.

She said plans call for the project to also feature: 

• A mural by Schiel on a wall at the Arc of the Central Plains Building at 600 Main showing Special Olympics athletes.

• A separate mural at that same building created by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

• A postcard-like mural by Schiel welcoming people to Hays on the side of the former Good Book Store building at 1012 Main.

• A bright, bold mural, for which the artist isn't yet finalized, featuring a Chinese dragon on a side of the building that houses Sake2Me Sushi Rolls at 803 Fort. The mural will pay homage to Xinzheng, Hays' sister city in Henan Province in China.

• A mural painted by community members in the area of the Midland Marketing Co-op building at 201 E. 8th.

• And an abstract mural by Hays artist Matt Miller at a site that hasn't yet been determined.

Residents are encouraged to share with project organizers their ideas for other murals and where they might be placed.

That can be done by going to the project's Facebook page or emailing the DHDC at dhdc@downtownhays.com.

"We're getting lots of submissions for that," Bloom said.

She said plans also call for the creation of framed, vinyl art pieces to be placed on building exteriors depicting the works of some of the community's great artists.

Two of those have been publicly identified: They are Hays resident Pete Felten, known for his limestone structures that stand downtown, and Hays psychiatrist John Cody, who gained attention for his detailed paintings of moths. Cody died at age 91 in 2016.

"We want to pay homage to these legends," Bloom said.