Black activist Hattie Moseley celebrated with new downtown mural

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

A figure from Springfield’s past will soon symbolically watch over the community from the east side of the WesBanco building on East Main Street, near Limestone Street.

A mural depicting Hattie Moseley, a Black woman who was instrumental in battling the segregation of the Fulton School a century ago, is being created by internationally-recognized artist Gaia, along with the assistance of local artists.

The Springfield Public Art Committee, the Greater Springfield Partnership, Westcott House and WesBanco Bank Inc. have teamed for the mural’s creation. A completion celebration will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the site, and the public is welcome to attend.

With downtown Springfield already the home of several murals, including one completed in June on the State Theater building, the Art Committee pondered what to feature for this project. Committee member Marta Wojcik said it was suggested to honor a figure the community may not know about and a focus group formed, which included Gaia, who was selected for his experience with large-scale work.

“It’s about presenting underrepresented stories and having a passionate artist to work on it,” Wojcik said.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

After narrowing down selections, they decided on Moseley, a Black female activist originally from Georgia whose help resulted in Fulton not being segregated after a 1923 court ruling. She was also credited with helping to end Jim Crow policies, and helping Black and women residents become registered voters.

Although Moseley didn’t have any children, several nieces and nephews still live in the area, and the committee involved them during the planning.

The WesBanco building, located at 28 E. Main St., was seen as the ideal site for its public visibility — a brick façade roughly 50 feet wide and 65-70 feet high. The bank’s parent company was enthusiastic in supporting the project.

Gaia, who is from New York and lives in Baltimore, has created art on every type of surface on all five continents and countless cities. There was no doubt about his profession Friday evening, as his jacket, clothes and shoes were splattered with enough paint colors to overfill an artist’s palette when he took a break to meet with committee and community members watching the mural’s creation.

Gaia said he was intrigued by the historical narratives and using the voices of the past to continue to bring awareness to the present community.

After working on the perspective, doing sketches and filling in the proportions, Gaia’s real challenge was to find the right documentation of Moseley. They managed to find an old newspaper drawing and considered having a family member pose as her, but a tiny photo was found, and he digitalized it to create the sketch.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The finished mural will picture Moseley clad in purple with Fulton School appearing and several flowers surrounding.

While he’s glad to be part of this project that will bear his artwork for years to come, what Gaia is especially interested in is continued involvement in future Springfield art projects, or what he calls “cool possibilities.”

“It’s the possibility of helping on issues of scale, size, format,” he said. “Exploring various narratives is something I’m always interested in.”

Gaia said the paint should last 20 years or so, with sun exposure presenting the greatest cause of fading.

The mural project is costing around $30,000 according to Wojcik, raised mostly from grants. The Springfield Public Art Committee, which was established three years ago and has about 20 members, will spend the next few months debating ideas for future projects.

“We’d like to do lots of different things like 3-D art, sculptures,” Wojcik said. “Our goal is to create art that everyone can access and enjoy. Through our mural projects, we have invited our community to celebrate Springfield history and raise public awareness about important community issues.”