Newton's downtown mural 'The Imagineers' to be restored

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Sometimes things have to get worse to get better, and that would be the case with "The Imagineers" Mural in downtown Newton.

October 9 volunteers began calking and sealing "The Imagineers" mural, the first step in restoring a nearly 12 year old mural in downtown.

Three volunteers were at work Oct. 9 repairing the mural, a mural that after that day of work was filled with white lines.

"We're caulking, we are undertaking to correct the underlying damp issues with this mural," said Constance Gehring, leader of "Newton Murals." "... It will then be sealed and need to raise enough money to paint it and seal it again."

This is an important project for Harvey Arts Connect dba Newton Murals & Arts Project — which is also in process of placing another mural dedicated to Newton history in downtown.

Dedicated in 2010, the Imagineers in the 300 block of North Main Street, was a project sponsored by the Mid-America Arts Alliance based in Kansas City, Mo., and the National Endowment for the Arts.  Twelve cities competed to host the project, which was fully funded by those two organizations.

Newton was the only community in Kansas to host such a painting.

Volunteers from the community spent hour after hour painting the mural during its creation.

Caulking and sealing has begun of "The Imagineers" in the 300 block of N. Main. Newton Murals is launching a restoration of the mural which was part of a 2016 documentary film.

Community members were involved in the project from the beginning, giving their ideas for what should be included in the mural and actually helping paint the mural.

Dave Loewenstein, a nationally recognized mural artist, was brought in to guide the project. He had two other professional Kansas artists assist him — Erika Nelson of Lucas and Matthew Farley, a Wichita native.

The mural appeared in a 2016 documentary is called  “Called to Walls” and that featured murals in Tonkawa, Okla., and Joplin, Mo., in addition to the mural in Newton. The mural artists wanted to capture on film the way the communities  came together to support the mural projects, bridging gaps that might not have been crossed any other way.

"The content of this mural was derived at through interviewing people in  focus groups. It was a community effort," Gehring said.

Among the clearly seen images are people of differing ages, a quilt, technology, the clouds on the water tower, a drink, railroad references, birds, trees and a cultivated field.

Some of the images have become marred by peeling paint and moisture damage. Prompted by that damage, and a social media post a couple weeks ago calling out the need of repair to the mural, Newton Murals & Arts Project stepped forward to begin restoration work.

"About 180 people responded to that post saying they wanted to help," Gehring said. "We need those 180 people to help out."

That means volunteering to paint, or make donations to the project for materials. Gehring said the initial project cost about $50,000, Newton Murals is wanting to raise $10,000 for restoration.

The hope is for painting to begin in spring of 2022.

Newton Murals is restoring "The Imagineers," a mural in downtown Newton.

The Harvey Arts Connect dba Newton Murals & Arts Project and we can accept donations through Central Kansas Community Foundation under Harvey Arts Connect.  For paypal donations see newtonmurals@gmail.com.  To send a donation through the mail, Harvey Arts Connect or Newton Murals & Arts Project at 725 N High St., Newton, 67114.

For those who want to volunteer to help work on the Imagineers mural or want to donate a lift for a short period of time, contact rodger.nugent@gmail.com.

Rachel Epp Buller, a professor at Bethel College, helped lead the design team that included Jop Loganill, then director of the Carriage Factory, Ray Olias, Jesse Graber, Diane Epp, Los Fernandez, Amy Yountz, Bob Regier, Erin McDaniel, James Janzen, LaDonna Voth, Susan Jantzen, Phil Epp, Pat Washburn, Beth Burns, Ellie Burns, Joe Regier, Pat Hines, Mike Combs, Jim Wimmer, and Mikala Gingerich-Gaylord

"The Imagineers" in the 300 block of Main was dedicated in 2010.

"It was a real community effort," Gehring said.