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December 14, 1994

Perry artist Darren Maine is doing a great deal to add a new visual dimension to our downtown business community. He recently completed a third excellent wall mural, this one on the expansive north wall of Foster's Corner Drug, operated by Mr. and Mrs. Mike Shannon at the northeast corner of the square. This, like the other two, is eye-catching as well as conversation-provoking.

The drug store mural is easily the largest of the three,measuring approximately 20'x 40'. It focuses on something rarely found in today's drug stores, its soda fountain. These used to be an integral, basic part of each and every drug store throughout the land, but they are rare in today's era of malls, fast-food restaurants and soft ice cream emporiums. The Corner Drug's fountain brings back a flood of childhood memories to me, but I'll save that for a later column.

The art work faithfully shows flat-topped shiny chrome stools clustered around Foster's fountain, with three youngsters perched there. One of them is earnestly and happily working on an ice cream cone served up by the person behind the counter. Turns out the models were the Shannons' grandchildren, while Mike and Janet themselves also are portrayed. Mike is behind the fountain

Darren was assisted in this project by D. J. Catron, a friend from the Dallas Artist Institute who happened to be in Enid at the time. Work was finished on the drug store mural in mid-November and Darren is now preparing to tackle at least one more here in Perry before starting another on the strip in Stillwater and one on a law office in Oklahoma City. Locally, in addition to the outdoor murals, he has done interior murals at Finley's Zip Trip and the wrestling rooms at the high school and at Daniels Field.

His first outdoor wall mural can be found on the south wall of the building housing the law office of his mother, Vicky J. Maine, at 409 Sixth street. That one shows an heroic size cowboy about to twirl a lariat. Next was a colorful garden scene executed on the west wall of Vickie Malget's Thorn Originals on the south side of the square.

Each of the three presented special problems in that different surfaces were used as "canvases." The law office has a fairly flat masonry block surface; Thorn's is rough-texture brick; and at Foster's the wall is covered by a corrugated metal veneer. Darren says the brick wall was hardest to do because of the little surface crevices which caused the paint to run in unexpected directions. No brushes are used. The entire work is done with common spray paint cans found on the shelves of many stores. Foster's wall, being the largest, required 75 cans of paint. The law office mural was approximately 13'x 30' and needed 15 cans of paint, and Thorn's mural, about 10' x 15', used about 30 cans.

Oklahoma's incessant wind is not as much of a problem as the cold weather this time of year, Darren says. Executing such murals requires a special artistry. For one thing, the painter must be able to visualize the final result as viewers will eventually see it from a distance while he is working up close, making broad sweeps with cans of spray paint from an elevated platform. The platform in this case was a scissor-lift device, like the old Perry-made Sky Witch. This means the artist must dismount periodically and move to a point some 40-50 feet away to check on what he's doing. In most cases, Darren chooses a photograph to work from, but at Foster's he also had the soda fountain itself in full view. The models were added one day when they all happened to be in the store. The work was completed in five days.

Some other communities around the state have engaged artists for similar work to appeal to tourists, and they have had outstanding results in their endeavors. Hominy is a prime example. A local artist there has turned the downtown area into a veritable theme park of wall murals. It is being widely publicized and heralded by those who have seen the result. Perry has a few walls that could benefit from such treatment.

Darren's artistry also is on display at Oklahoma City's Bricktown Gallery. He will be given a one-man show there from 1 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 17, this Saturday. Included will be a rough sculpture, paintings in oil, pastels, acrylics and water colors, plus some silk screen artistry. His talents are being put to use also at Jay Williams' Sport Shak on the south side of the square here. Darren does silk screen designs for T-shirts and also does art for various other types of work, such as trophies and plaques, processed in Jay's growing Perry business. Darren also has shared his talent with Stagecoach Community Theatre in set design and painting.

Darren, 22, his always had an interest in drawing. He graduated from Perry high school and then spent two years at the Dallas Artist Institute. He also has studied under Kay Orr of Oklahoma City, to whom he gives a great deal of credit for inspiring and supporting him as an artist. As many of you will remember, he also is an accomplished banjo player, although he now picks up that instrument only for his own entertainment.

His murals are worth a special trip downtown. If you haven't seen them, I recommend you make it a point to do so at the earliest opportunity. Hopefully, there will be more to come.