East Town was Joplin’s first settlement, dating back to 1838. In 1873, East Town merged with Murphysburg to become Joplin. Many families have lived in this diverse neighborhood for generations and even residents who no longer live in East Town care deeply about its future. This 2016 community-based mural shares East Town residents’ great pride and preserves neighborhood stories for the broadest audience. The mural project provided an opportunity for neighbors to engage from conception to execution. Community members of all ages collaborated to create this intergenerational and cross-cultural mural. Through community and design meetings, they were able to learn about making murals, offer ideas for mural content, participate in community painting days, and experience the execution of a highly visible public artwork. The artists learned most by listening. A central theme of the design is storytelling. Figures in the mural were inspired by Betty Smith, Buddie Mitchell, Melissa Cuther, Marion Dial, Clovis Steele, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The mural references the neighborhood’s history and evolution, as well as important citizens who work to keep the stories alive. Magnolia flowers and hummingbirds symbolize graceful endurance. The mural provides seeds for future conversations about East Town and facilitates the sharing of its stories. The East Town Mural is the 6th Art in Public Places Project initiated by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Cultural Affairs Committee.
Date completed: October 2016
Artist: Kyle McKenzie, assisted by Devon Estes, Jenny Journeycake, and Aaron Skapik (with the help of hundreds of East Town residents)