FAIRMONT, W.Va. – A group of Fairmont State University art students have taken on the initiative of creating a painting that captures the history of Marion County called “People of Marion County.”
On Monday, June 15 they took a sketch of art on an 8 x 11 piece of paper, and made it larger than life.
Students Chloe Barber, Sable Herrod, Maralisa Marra, Madison Mayle and Michaela Riffle took six weeks to finalize the design. Then once they got it approved by Fairmont City Council, the support from several community groups grew rapidly.
“The support from the community, its crazy. I can’t believe how many people have shown support with this, but its awesome to see we aren’t the only ones who think its so important to beautify Marion county, and display our history of how we got here today,” said Art Professor Joel Dugan.
Listed below are those who are featured in the mural:
Johnnie Johnson – He was a Jazz, Blues, and Rock and Roll pianist that collaborated with Chuck Berry for over twenty years and was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was chosen to be featured because of his significance in Marion county because of contributions to the arts as a minority. (far left)
Colonel George “Spanky” Roberts – He was a Colonel for the U.S. Military as an African American. He attended school in Fairmont, WV, and was among the first African Americans selected for pilot training at the famed Tuskegee Army Airfield. He commanded a fighter squadron and flew 78 combat missions over Europe in the Second World War. (second from the left)
Julia Pierpont – Wife of Francis Pierpont is credited for being the originator of Decoration Day, however the day was renamed Memorial Day in 1882. Additionally, the state of West Virginia, Marion County, and the City of Fairmont proclaimed Julia Pierpont Day to be on the Saturday before Memorial Day. (middle)
Harriet “Aunt Hat” Wilson Whitely – She represents the city of Fairmont’s final ties with slavery. Born into slavery, when she died in 1941, C.E. Smith, editor of Fairmont Times at the time stated, “The death of Aunt Hat Whitely probably served the last line in our town with those distant days of human bandage.” The inclusion of Aunt Hat in the mural represents herself, a well-loved and respected figure in the community, as well as the victory Fairmont and West Virginia as a whole experienced when the Willey Amendment was written and slavery was finally made illegal. (second in from the right)
Coal Miner and Mine Disaster – Project workers believe it was necessary to pay a tribute to the hardworking men, women, and industry that have been a cornerstone to the county, state, and the overall nation. Coal miners have been an integral part of this region, including the tragic mine disasters in Monogah (1907) and Farmington (1968) that led to more effective federal safety laws for miners, as well as an overall supportive community. (far right)
The idea was to symbolize the history of Marion County and main people through time that helped the city grow into what it is today, while also capturing West Virginia beauty. With all the current events happening with the Black Live Matter movement, Dugan as well as his team of student workers, feel this mural is a great demonstration of the past, the growth and the current situation we are all in and fighting for.
“This is something I have dreamed of since I was little,” said a junior art student at Fairmont State Maralisa Marra. “To just come out and paint on a wall, and have somebody see it…and its, exciting. like i just even posted on instagram and said the little maralisa inside of me is screaming, its so exciting. it makes me feel like a big part of the community.”
Dugan said projects like these help him teach his students about real like work they can do with their careers, and he is thrilled this project is so largely supported in the community.
They are hoping to complete the mural in three weeks with the goal of it lasting 5-7 years.