CASPER, Wyo. — The Reverend James Reeb was killed after marching to call for voting rights for black Americans.
Reeb marches on in a new mural revealed on Wednesday, Aug. 28 in downtown Casper.
About a dozen more murals will march into downtown Casper in the wake of the Reeb mural over the next six years.
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“The vision right now is to have between 10-12 murals in the next six years,” says Elissa Ruckle, chair of the Casper Mural Project and owner of Elevate Wyoming. “We figure with our weather we can probably get two done every summer.”
Part of the vision includes transforming the alley next to Backwards Distilling Company’s tasting room over to David Street Station into a lighted art walk for pedestrians.
Like the Reeb mural, Ruckle says the plan is to find images and stories that really show Casper’s character.
“It really spoke to the values of our community,” she says of the mural done by artist Tony Elmore, adding that she thinks Casper shows a lot of generosity. “Everybody kind of does their own thing, but when things go sideways, we got your back.”
Ruckle says that a lot of work will go in to selecting stories that show Casper’s soul rather than images more generic to Wyoming such as Yellowstone National Park.
“How do we tell Casper’s story?” she asks. “The challenge is going to be how do we figure out what those [stories] are.”
Several early ideas include doing something that features Casper Mountain.
“It’s a huge part of who we are,” Ruckle says. “There is so much you could do with that conceptually.”
She also says that murals about the North Platte River or the railroad may be something people will see downtown in coming years.
Ruckle says that the Casper Mural Project is completing the last steps to become an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organiztion.
Once that is done, they’ll get a seven member board of directors together and two committees dedicated to the project.
The first committee will oversee the selection of art and artists and the other committee will focus on the stories behind the art.
The Casper Mural Project expects to have these structures in place in the next two months. At that point, they will put out a call to artists across Wyoming.
New murals would begin to go up next summer.
Ruckle says the murals will show “not only our history as a community, but where we are going.”
It is possible that one mural will be done by artist Zachary Pullen who has been talking with Ruckle about how to approach the overall project.
“He’s been really phenomenal in helping guide me in this scope of things,” she says.
One idea they are tossing around is having Pullen coordinate a mural that community members themselves could come and paint. While this is just a concept right now, Ruckle says it would involve Pullen outlining space on a downtown wall and asking the community to come in and add color.
She also hopes that a mobile app will be created to facilitate self-guided tours of the murals.
People would be able to access background stories behind the artwork and interviews with artists.
“So it just becomes a self-guided tour through downtown Casper,” Ruckle says.
The project may involve adding lighting to some areas to really make them safe and appealing to pedestrians.
Ruckle says that the idea for the project grew out of several people thinking about communities like Laramie, Denver and Rapid City which have extensive murals in their downtown areas.
Large mural projects in Denver and in Florida have drawn visitors specifically to come see the art, she adds.
“Why can’t we do that here?” Ruckle asks. “Why can’t we create that space?”
The Reeb mural revealing drew a number of people.
“I was happy to see so many people,” Ruckle says.
The wall space for that mural was donated by Peter Wold.
“Peter was amazing,” Ruckle says. “When we first reached out to him he said, ‘Absolutely, this needs to happen.'”
She’s been talking with other business owners and says that at least three or four have expressed interest in helping facilitate the overall project.
“This is just initial stages, we don’t have everybody bought in yet,” Ruckle says. “If you want to be a part of this and donate space, that would be awesome.”
As the murals go up, Ruckle says there may be similar reveal and discussion event’s like what happened at the Lyric on Wednesday.
Securing funding for future murals is something else the Casper Mural Project will be working on.
“The whole scope of the project is going to easily be $250,000,” Ruckle says.
They’ll seek grants as well as donations from private sponsors.
NOTE: This story was originally published on Aug. 29, 2019. Oil City is re-running the post on Martin Luther King Jr. Day due to Reeb’s connection with the civil rights movement.