Painting History

Standard photo/Marisa Patwa

Michael Smith starting the new Johnson Park mural project on Monday. The project is expected to be completed in October.

Boonville is traveling back in time with a new mural in Johnson Park.

Boonville Now commissioned Chandler artist Michael Smith, who owns the Orange Moon Art Studio, to paint a mural featuring Boonville businesses from the late 1800s on the north wall of IGA facing Johnson Park.

The mural includes paintings of the old drug store, Christ's Soda, the Boonville Enquirer, Freeman, C.C. Ferguson, The People's Bank and J. Roth and Co.

"It'll be like window shopping in the past," Smith said. "It really sets a nice backdrop to the park."

Smith, 43, said the mural will attract more people to the town.

"People will say, 'oh, you could have spent that money on a pothole,' " he said. "But what some may not realize is that beauty aids in tourism and interest and money."

Smith has been painting murals for the past 25 years.

"I have painted over 100 murals two hours from every direction of Johnson Park," he said. "I've also done a bunch in Houston and Chicago."

Smith said he originally became fascinated with art in elementary school.

"This light switch just came on in fifth grade," he said. "One day it was stick figures and the next day it was portraits."

Smith then ended up working in an airbrush shop in the mall when he was 18.

"In the military, I worked in a paint store," he said. "And by the time I was 22, I owned three airbrush stores."

Smith said the first mural he ever painted was while he was serving in the military as a young man.

"It was in honor of a military base that had shut down," he said.

Smith, who lived in Chandler with his family for more than 13 years, has been on the road the past two years with his wife and two children.

"It's the best thing I've ever done," he said. "You know when you say you're going to go to Walmart for just one thing but then you end up buying the whole store? Well, when we go in for paper towels, we come out with paper towels."

Smith said part of his nomad attitude comes from being an Army brat.

"If I stay in one place too long, I get all itchy and antsy and I gotta go," he said.

Smith said he was working in a state park in Oregon when we came back to Indiana for his step-daughter's high school graduation this past June.

"And we haven't left yet."

Smith said he believes the new mural will only be a stepping stone.

"The businesses on the square used to have murals on them and you can still see the remains of some," he said. "Decay is contagious but so is refurbication."

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