Columbia looks to 'concrete graphics' to replace damaged art

Nov 20, 2013

Artist Maura Mudd used 'concrete graphics' to affix her mural design to the ground near Flatbranch Park.
Credit Kyle Winker / KBIA

The city of Columbia has found a new way to replace damaged murals painted downtown.

In 2012, nine artists in the Columbia area painted murals on sidewalks behind storm drains.  The project was collaboration with the Roots N’ Blues Festival.  The artists chose imagery that promotes a cleaner environment and serve as reminders to viewers that what enters the storm drain systems flows directly into local creeks and streams.

But, three of those murals were damaged.  City of Columbia stormwater educator Mike Heimos says drivers and the weather were the likely causes.

“We had a pretty harsh winter here,” Heimos says.  “Most of the nine murals are in great shape and they look wonderful.  The ones that got damaged were in high traffic areas, vehicle areas.  We believe one was hit by a snowplow.

At a city meeting, Heimos says he noticed the city was using decals, basically giant stickers, for bike lanes.  This made him wonder if the decals also could be used for artwork.  

“I did some research, looked at other technologies that were there, contacted the manufacture of this product,” he says.  “They use it in the advertising world on the sides of buildings, walls, sidewalks, especially promotional things, and we decided to use it for the artwork.”  

Franklin Imaging makes the product that they call “concrete graphics.”  The concrete graphics conform to the indentations of the concrete and look just like paint.  Heimos says they are aluminum which makes the decals 100 percent recyclable if removed, unlike paint.  In addition, Heimos says they are much more cost effective than paint. 

“The paint was originally donated by Sherman Williams,” he says.  “We calculated per mural around downtown it was about $1,500 in paint.  This new technology that we are using just to have it reproduced from Adobe Photoshop print runs around $200 per sticker.”  

Artist Maura Mudd painted a mural right outside Flatbranch Park on Locust Street.  Mudd says the city asked her whether she wanted to repaint it or try the new concrete graphics.  She decided to use the new concrete graphics and says it allowed her to do more with her work.

“I was able to do some things in Photoshop, which is my area of expertise, that I wasn’t able to do with the paint and brushes,” she says.  “So I was actually pretty glad that we were able to put it down like this.” 

Heimos says with the new concrete graphics he plans to get more artists involved and use them for education and outreach about keeping the community clean.  He says the graphics will make it easier to expand the placement of the graphics to areas like parks and schools.

This story originally aired as part of Business Beat, a weekly program about business and economics in mid-Missouri.