Visitors to downtown Boonville may notice a bright flash of color protruding from the back of a few buildings on the square while they are passing down 1st Street.
A brand new city mural is going up on a building adjacent to the Old National Bank building downtown. This new art is the work of Laura Engel, a Boonville native who has taken over the project free of charge.
Engel, who grew up in Boonville before moving to Chicago where she resided for over 30 years, has taken on the painting as a passion project, and a love letter of sorts to the city. Engel has decided to move back to Boonville in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic and wanted to continue her art while living in town. She has never taken on a mural before and the face of a building is a new canvas for her.
The idea for the project came when Steve Smith of Boonville Now came to her and inquired about her plans upon returning to Boonville. Engel said she wanted to keep working on her art and that the building South of the old national office looked like it could use a new veneer. Smith agreed and soon a deal was worked out.
Engel is a self taught artist who cut her teeth with a group in Chicago called Ravenswood ArtWalk, an art group based out of the Ravenswood neighborhood in Chicago’s North side. However, Engel’s relationship with art can be traced back to her roots in Boonville. “I’ve always loved art. My first art class was in Ella Williams School in Boonville, Miss Ash taught art. I took an art class again in high school with Mr. Bailey. But other than that I have no formal education in art.”
On her decision to move to Chicago, Engel explained, “I was enamored with moving away when I was young after seeing my siblings go to college. My older brother went to Indiana University, and seeing him move there and the campus made me want to travel. I returned to Boonville last year to live a simpler life and return home.”
As for what the mural portrays, the painting is flanked on either side by portraits of Ratliff Boon, the founder of Boonville and Indiana’s second governor, as well as Abraham Lincoln, who famously studied law in the city. In the middle of the mural there will be a mosaic of Indiana’s native flowers, representing the natural beauty of the state that can be found all around yards and parks in Boonville.
Engel is very passionate about the project, which she discussed at length, “I am very passionate about the painting, I’m not getting paid for any of it and I’ve done all the prep work myself in preparation for the mural. I have been very fortunate that Visit Warrick County has been so willing to help me and pay for all my painting supplies I’m using during the project. The local Kiwanis Club is also paying for the paint. I like all the people that have been coming by and saying hello. One of my old classmates brought me some gasoline when he saw I was power washing the wall and a girl gave me a free cupcake from school. The support from the community has been fantastic.
The mural is expected to be completed within the coming months. Those who wish to see more of Engel’s work may find it as lauraengel.com