Mural Brought Back to Life
- story by Lisa Monti
Thanks to a grant from the Pati Bannister Foundation, the mural on Hancock Bank’s western wall in downtown Bay St. Louis is on the way to being restored to its original glory.
The 16-foot by 98-foot mural depicting Hancock County’s history was painted by local artist John McDonald in 1997. “The Promenade” quickly became a popular attraction and landmark in Old Town.
It was damaged by Hurricane Katrina’s wind and now, but now, ten years later, private funding will be used to begin the process of restoring the artwork.
Bannister, a well known artist and Hancock County resident, died in 2013.
In the mid-90s, McDonald drew a mock-up of the mural and later a larger scale drawing. Then he and a group of supporters presented the idea to the Mississippi Arts Commission. The organization provided a grant to cover the costs of painting it.
According to McDonald, two people were pivotal in facilitating the creation of the public artwork: Elizabeth Veglia (mosaic artist with dozens of large public projects around the state), and Betsy Pincus (then owner of Bay Crafts on Beach Blvd.).
The actual painting of the mural took months of work by both McDonald and his assistants. Much of the work had to be done from a bucket lift. Bad weather could hold up progress for days. Worst of all, remembers McDonald, were the gnats.
“Absolutely the most challenging part of the entire process,” says McDonald laughing. “They can drive you insane.”
Several town residents donated to the project to have impressionistic likenesses of themselves painted into the mural. Perhaps the easiest to pick out, even today, is folk artist Alice Moseley, shown wearing her distinctive red beret.
Part of the grant funding including the costs for making 1000 prints of the mural. Unfortunately, those that hadn’t been sold before Hurricane Katrina were destroyed when McDonald’s climate-controlled storage unit in Waveland flooded to the rafters. Only a handful he happened to have with him in his car survived.
However, the print owned by Gulfport attorney Tom Teel, survived and was a treasured part of his office decor. Teel was disturbed that the mural itself, which had sustained major damage in Katrina, had been deteriorating further each year. He eventually contacted Dan Burton, head of the Pati Bannister Foundation to see if they’d be willing to help in the restoration process. Bannister, a well-known artist and Hancock County resident, died in 2013. The process was set into motion.
Tim Kellar said that when the report is done, the Pati Bannister Foundation and artist John D. McDonald will then seek partners to fully fund a restoration.
“People like Tom Teel, Dan Burton and Tim Kellar have been indispensible in the process,” says McDonald. “It takes that kind of interested, enthused support to pull a project like this together.”
Only 80 limited edition prints, signed by the artist, remain. The prints are 24" x 10.5" S/N, titled, $75 each. Contact the artist to purchase.