Hannah Cross, 14, of Newkirk, Oklahoma, a member of the Newkirk Go-Getters 4-H Club and an eighth-grader at Oklahoma State College Prep, spearheaded a project to turn the foliage-covered side of an historic building at the entrance to her town into a colorful mural depicting the history and sights of the area. Hannah is proud of her town. She used to live in a suburb with no Main Street or historic district, she said, but now lives only a block away from “stunning historical buildings.” But one of the oldest buildings, a 1915 structure, was “an eyesore” seen by more than 6,000 people driving through town each day on Highway 77. Hannah wanted to do something about that.
She obtained permission of the building’s owner to beautify its exterior, recruited more than 40 volunteers, negotiated a discount with the local Lowe’s for supplies, and borrowed scaffolding from a friend. Volunteers first used chainsaws and tractors to remove the trees and bushes that covered the building’s side. After that was cleared, Hannah used a putty knife to scrap out the roots that had dug into the brick wall’s grout. When the surface was ready, volunteers spray painted the wall. Then, six local professional artists, paired with students, transferred their rough designs to the wall. After over 220 volunteer hours, the 12-by-25-foot mural was completed with scenes that include a covered wagon, an American flag, an historic bank building, and school logos. “I hope this bright, friendly mural will be a greeting into Newkirk for the next 30 years,” said Hannah. “Main Street is truly a tremendous treasure and a legacy for the next generation; it is our responsibility to protect and promote it.”