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A trio of Grand Island High School alumni have teamed up for beautification and civic pride.
In a project organized by Corey McGowan, the 250-foot wide by 14-foot high rear wall of the Grand Island Plaza will be awash in scenes reflecting Island history and sights.
“This will dress up the plaza and add a lot of color to the Island,” said McGowan, of the giant mural, which faces Sidway Elementary School on Baseline Road.
McGowan, a 2007 alumnus, launched the Grand Island Mural Project several months ago, hoping to unveil it during the first Taste of Grand Island Fall Festival on Saturday, which he is also organizing.
President of the high school’s DECA Club in his senior year, McGowan sought assistance – and funding – for the project.
Foremost are two 1969 alumni: award-winning commercial artist and muralist Terry Klaaren of Tampa, Fla., and Stan Clifford, CEO of DecoArt Paints in Danville, Ky., who donated all the paint.
Klaaren and Clifford have collaborated on other projects, including a portrait of the Venezuelan musical conductor Gustavo Dudamel.
Klaaren got right to work after arriving on the Island on Sept. 26 with his wife/manager, Dori, a 1970 graduate, whose family – the Hardmans – live on the Island.
During an interview last week, Klaaren said, “We’re about a week ahead of schedule. The weather’s been great; I’ve gotten great volunteers, and we’re already working on the detailing.”
Klaaren said he learned of the Mural Project during a visit last summer from his now-retired art teacher, Lynn Laman, and contacted McGowan.
“It was a cosmic coincidence,” said Klaaren, who hopes to set up a continuing “base of work here” that will get young art students moving along a career path.
Klaaren agreed to work for whatever money is left after any other expenses are paid, McGowan said.
“He is doing the design himself. And it’s a big secret so far,” he added. But it will incorporate historic facts and sights of the Island, he said.
Klaaren said he did “a mock-up of what I wanted to do, but I didn’t do a visual presentation partly to keep the buzz up.”
A lot of help has poured in, including from plaza owner Don Singh; McGowan’s mother, Patricia; the Town Highway Department; Supervisor Mary S. Cooke; Cheryl Chamberlain; James Sharpe, president of the Chamber of Commerce; Gui’s Lumber, which donated painting supplies; Fastenal, a tool company; and Island restaurants.
“I hear from people daily who want to help, either by making a donation or volunteering time,” said McGowan. Klaaren said people are welcome to visit the site and watch the work progress.
McGowan said 56 vendors, including area restaurants, have signed up for the Fall Festival, set for 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at the plaza on Grand Island Boulevard. Klaaren will be exhibiting some of his art work at the festival. Included are food and wine pairings and children’s activities, including pony rides and a bounce house.