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Friday, May 6, 2016

Nevada murals home at last and on display in city hall

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

John Flynn, left, and Barbra Ferry watch as Andrew McMair prepares one of Armstrong's murals for hanging. Photos Ralph Pokorny/Daily Maiy
Special to the Daily Mail

A noted Springfield artist has donated two murals depicting Vernon County and Nevada history which he painted many years ago when the city fathers held a competition for artists to decorate the interior of the new city council chamber.

Bill Armstrong, emeritus professor of art at Missouri State University, entered his two murals, but did not win the competition. After the competetion ended he kept the murals at his studio where they stayed until recently when he donated them to the city. They now hang in the lobby of the Nevada City Hall.

Andrew McNair, left, Barbra Ferry and John Flynn show off one of Armstrong's murals.
Their donation was prompted by the efforts of two 1952 Nevada High School graduates who got to talking about the paintings at a class reunion in 2007 -- namely, Barbara Ferry and her long-time friend Phyllis (Williams) Patterson. Phyllis and her husband Al Patterson, Springfield, were acquainted with Bill and Margo Armstrong, and mentioned to the couple about the possibility of having the murals that Armstrong had submitted for the competition hung in Nevada where they were intended to be.

Phyllis, Barbara and John Flynn, real estate agent and erstwhile Nevada promoter, then met with the artist to see the murals and were delighted with his generous offer. Ferry and Flynn drove to Springfield to get them and bring them back to Nevada.

Done in acrylic on Masonite board, the two sketches measure 84 by 33 inches, and 66 by 33 inches. They picture Vernon County's history over a span of more than a century, from the Osage Indians who inhabited this region originally, up to 1975.

The competition for the murals involved Armstrong and three other artists who were all friends of Harry Chew who was a professor of art at Cottey College at the time. The winner was Siegfried Reinhardt who "was better than any of us," recalls Armstrong.

Reinhard's historical mural was provided by the L.F. Richardson Foundation, and has been admired for some 37 years by visitors to the city council chambers.

The smaller Armstrong murals depict similar subjects of import, such as Cottey College and Old Main Hall, Cottey's founder, Mrs. Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard, Missouri State Hospital No. 3, the Bushwhacker Museum Old Jail, Radio Springs, and likenesses of others important in Nevada's history.

Armstrong, 85, retired from MSU in 1988 after a 25-year career in which he established and directed the school's graphic arts curriculum. With watercolor as his first love, Armstrong has won more than 50 awards in national and regional exhibits. He is the honorary president and cofounder of the Watercolor U.S.A. Honor Society.

In 1990, he received the Missouri Arts Council's highest award for lifetime achievement in the arts, and in 2004 was awarded the Springfield Arts Council's "Ozzie" for his many contributions to the arts in that area.

His donation to the city is "a very welcome gift," according to the NHS classmates who started the ball rolling to bring them back here, namely Barbara and Phyllis.

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