By CRISTINA JANNEY Hays Post
After just two days a painting depicting a larger-than-life image of a bison has appeared on the side of the S&W Supply building at Eighth and Allen streets in Hays.
Hays Artist Dennis Schiel is painting the first in what local officials hope will be eight to 10 downtown murals in two years. The project has been dubbed Brush the Bricks.
The murals will take several different forms. Some will be painted by professional artists like Schiel. Some of the murals will be metal. Some of them will include community involvement in the painting process.
"We also want this project to honor the artist who are also legends in Hays — the Pete Feltens and the John Codys and more," said Sara Bloom, director of the Downton Hays Development Corp.
Felten is known for his limestone sculptures that already grace downtown. John Cody was a local psychiatrist and known for his beautiful, detailed paintings of moths.
The project is hoping to do 12 framed vinyl art pieces to depict these artists' works, Bloom said.
Hays artist Dennis Schiel paints one of at least eight downtown murals that are planned for the Brush the Bricks art project.
Schiel's first mural is titled "The Three Amigos." It will depict the three figures of the Old West that made Hays famous, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok and Gen. George Custer.
The mural was originally designed for the Sternberg water tower, but that project was nixed by the Hays City Commission. He said he anticipates he will complete the mural some time in August.
Schiel also will be painting a mural on the Arc of the Central Plains building at 600 Main St. starting in September. The mural will depict Special Olympics athletes.
"I am hoping to depict the thrill they get out of participating," Schiel said.
A second mural on the Arc building will be created by individuals in the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"The art downtown is just the start," Schiel said. "I would like to see it create a great interest in the arts by the community, not just downtown. We are looking at doing some projects outside of downtown."
Schiel plans a fourth, "Welcome to Hays" mural on the side of the former Good Book Store building at 11th and Main streets.
Eventually Schiel, who helped with the fundraising on the mural project, said he would like to see an endowment for the arts created to benefit Hays and the surrounding area.
"When I was trying to get the tower started, my goal was to really have something for people to come in and see," he said.
Melissa Dixon, director of the Hays Conventions & Visitors Bureau, said she hopes people will choose to stop in Hays and come downtown to see the murals.
"I feel a mural is its own little attraction," she said. "It turns that building into a tourist destination. ... I think Hays is already known for having a strong and vibrant art community, and this makes it even better."
Hays artist Matt Miller will be painting an abstract mural starting this fall. However, the location of that mural has not been determined.
An oriental dragon is planned for the side of the Sake2Me building, 803 Fort St. The artist has yet to be chosen for that project.
Time lapse cameras are going to be installed at the sites of the murals while they are being composed.
A mural painted by the community will be on the side of the Midland Marketing building. That project is set for summer 2022.
Bloom said project organizers are interested in community members submitting ideas for murals, as well as suggestions on buildings on which they think they should be placed.
You can do so by emailing the DHDC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The project is a partnership between the DHDC, the Hays Arts Council and the Hays Convention & Visitors Bureau. Schiel is not only painting murals for the project, but has assisted in fundraising and will assist in the installation of the metal and vinyl murals. Fort Hays State University is also a partner.
The project is being funded through donations and grants. The DHDC has already raised $90,000 toward its $150,000 goal. Murals will be painted or installed as they are funded.
"This is a movement to celebrate our past ... to celebrate our future, but also to invigorate the community and the tourism that is happening in Hays," Bloom said. "[It is] a way to come together as a community."