The Ponca City Grain Elevator Project was born out of an earnest and organic movement to improve downtown Ponca City. This project began with a lunch. John McNeese gathered 15 people in January 2018 who he knew were arts leaders in Ponca City and challenged that he would entertain a matching grant up to $50,000 to help fund projects if they promoted art in Ponca City. At that time, we had no projects in mind in particular. In February 2018 Ponca City Main Street brought Rick Sinnett to Ponca City to pick out a wall for a mural. Not even a big wall, a small wall. Definitely not a grain elevator, just a wall. But Rick was moved by our city, its beauty and he just kept gravitating to the Grain Elevator...
He insisted, despite our initial opposition, that was what he should paint. We told him we didn’t think it was possible. We had no idea how to fund it, or if it could even be done, and we had no idea what the art would look like. Rick is known for his colorful, Oklahoma-centric murals all over the state of Oklahoma. When you look on the TravelOK mural site, 3 of the 12 featured mural images on the website cover are his work. In fact, if you read on the TravelOK site under “notable mural artists”, they describe Sinnett as an Oklahoma American Folk Artist, saying “his work across the state has only just begun”
So, we asked Rick to work on rendering some images, and we approached John McNeese about funding this project. John approved the project before he ever laid eyes on the images. We then began working with the city because as we found out, repainting the elevator had been something they had wanted to do for quite some time, and we also found out that the lowest quote they had for painting it up to that point was $250,000. In fact, in the Ponca City comprehensive plan, Chapter 2, page 15 states one of the City’s goals is to develop a public art program, particularly in downtown, and to create a fundraising campaign to generate sufficient revenue to paint a mural on the Robin Hood Flour grain elevator, with the goal of creating a distinctive identity for the downtown district.
In addition to fulfilling a goal that city had, we would be achieving the goal with a public/private partnership which is preferred to all public funding, because then the community has buy-in and ownership. So, with John’s $20,000 matching pledge, the city’s potential $49,000 from tourism funds and $30,000 more raised in private donations, suddenly the $100,000 Rick Sinnett mural was a feasible project. The City also inquired about painting the other two structures in an effort to “complete the project” and that is something we hope to do.
The City of Ponca City is no stranger to ambitious long-term or multi-year projects, and just as they are currently doing with the Ponca City Broadband project and the massive Trail System project, we propose breaking the elevator project down into phases in order to make it more manageable and attainable.
We waited for Rick to get us the renderings, and he did. Rick is a professional artist; he’s created thousands of pieces of art and has experience painting large structures including elevators, which is not something most artists can say. Rick was born in Mustang, Oklahoma, and having an Oklahoma-born artist was very important to us. When we got the images, and when we understood that the $150,000 cost savings was primarily due to the stencil painting technique developed by Sinnett, and the simplistic solar-fade-resistant coloring, we took our next steps with the images Rick presented to us. So, we spoke with the property owners David Hall, Jr. and Noah Hall. We had an amazing meeting with them. We showed them the images and they said, “we approve of any images that aren’t offensive” and they even offered to allow Rick to keep his travel trailer on their property, and for him to use their electric and water hook ups.
In regards to this project, Ponca City Main Street reached out to multiple local officials for their perspectives, and they had this to share:
Representative Ken Luttrell stated, “I, alongside Lt Gov Pinnell have seen the impact that these types of murals can have on downtown districts and I full support this project. In fact, the artist, Rick Sinnett is a friend of mine, and I know he will do a wonderful job on this mural”
Senator Bill Coleman stated that, “I am for Elevator mural project, and all things that will beautify Ponca City”
And remember, art is an economic driver. In July 2017, Kelsey Wagner presented the findings of the AEP5 study to the City Commission and reported that the Arts industry in Ponca City had made a 5 million impact in 2015, generating $305,000 in local tax revenue. This art project will not only rejuvenate and revitalize a downtown area, it will also have a major and lasting economic impact on local businesses and government municipalities for years to come.
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Who is funding the Project?
The Ponca City Grain Elevator Mural Project, in conjunction with the John McNeese, the city of Ponca City, Ponca City Main Street and other private donors is a joint public/private partnership to further enhance downtown's vibrant image, and to also provide a positive economic impact to downtown businesses.
Phase 1, 100% Complete!