Art project takes shape in Aurora

Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Ribbon cutting ceremonies were held Friday at the Aurora Alumni and Outreach Center, for a new public art project. Project coordinator Kim McCully-Mobley and art teacher Ashley Bolling cut the ribbon on the art panels displayed on the south side of the building. Pictured from left are caricature portraits, from left, of Lydia McNatt, Ken Ackley, Poss Jackson, Ed Cook, Fred Baum and Stephen Elliott. Murray Bishoff/

Students honor past, present leaders with portraits

A four-month project creating portraits of community leaders in Aurora culminated in a grand unveiling and ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday at the historic National Guard Armory in Aurora, built in the 1940s and now the Aurora school district's Alumni and Outreach Center.

Project coordinator Kim McCully-Mobley said the project created portraits of 13 leading Aurora citizens, past and present. Six were placed on view by the entrance of the Outreach Center. The others will be placed inside various public schools.

McCully-Mobley said advanced art students under teacher Ashley Bolling reviewed "hundreds" of old photos and selected their subjects, picking representatives of each era. Once the subjects were selected, students worked on Hardy backer boards with documents cotton paper displaying newspaper type imagery. Students painted black portraits on the white background with acrylic and covered them with deck sealant.

Those displayed on the Outreach Center were town founder Stephen Elliott, longtime teacher Lydia McNatt, 1969 high school football champion team coach Poss Jackson, coach and educator Ed Cook, coach and TV sportsman Fred Baum, and veterans memorial organizer Ken Ackley.

Other portraits included postal carrier and philanthropist Howard Bagby, banker Jerry Fogle, teachers Hazel and Ethel Gardner, teacher and storyteller Norma Eden, band director and educator Gene Kirkham and handyman and bus driver Harold Thurman. The names were kept secret until invitations were sent to family members for the dedication.

“It’s been a labor of love,” McCully-Mobley said. She credited additional support to the Place Works Project, the Springfield Art Museum and the Missouri Arts Council.

A reception followed the ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by Aurora’s Youth Empowerment Project, the AHS Dual Credit Leadership Class and the Houn’ Dawg  Alumni & Outreach Center Advisory Committee.