Shouting your message

Springfield native and professional artist to paint mural on east side

click to enlarge Shouting your message
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Barbara Mason, a Springfield native and professional artist who now lives in Texas, has been commissioned to paint a mural on the city’s east side.

Painting a mural is like shouting your message, contends Barbara Mason, a Springfield native and professional artist commissioned to paint a scene on the city's east side.

"From an artist's perspective, mural art is not very much different than if you were just painting on a canvas that would go on your wall at home," she told Illinois Times. "It gets your point across, but it's just on a larger scale. So, one would be like saying something in conversation and the other like shouting it out loud."

U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield, announced this month that the Springfield Art Association will receive a $15,000 federal grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the creation of a mural.

"The NEA is providing $15,000 that will need to be matched for the total cost of the project of $30,000," said Betsy Dollar, executive director of the art association.

Dollar said the location and theme for the mural have not been decided. That determination will be made after seeking public input during neighborhood meetings.

One higher-profile site the SAA is considering is near 11th Street and South Grand Avenue in the Southtown neighborhood, she said. A possible mural idea is to highlight the manufacturing heritage of the area.

"There once was a lot more manufacturing going on in Springfield and there were just flat-out a lot more jobs," Dollar said. "The east side was quite stable, middle class and chugging right along."

Getting Mason, a nationally recognized artist, to agree to create the project was quite a coup, Dollar added.

"She was born and raised on Springfield's east side and now lives in Texas," she said. "She is nationally known for her pastel artwork."

The mural will be created under the direction of Mason with the help of area high school students.

"My guess is that she will draw the whole thing out and get their help in doing flat areas – like filling in a coloring book. And then she will go in and nuance it with shading," Dollar said.

 Mason, a 1981 graduate of Southeast High School, worked for many years as an ultrasound technician at Springfield Memorial Hospital.

"I ran the ultrasound department there for years and I was looking for a hobby, something to do to balance my work and life," said Mason. "And that's when I discovered watercolors and I became a member of the Sangamon Watercolor Society. ... I thought, 'This is working out pretty well. I enjoyed it. So, I applied for my first art show, and that was the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta. It was a 10-day art show that changed my career. I got a greeting card contract during that show, and I met the top artists in the nation. I started traveling nationally and exhibiting and I just never looked back."

Although she now owns her own ultrasound business, she considers herself a full-time artist.

"People see my artwork on cards with words that inspire or comfort someone. It's amazing. And I get calls from all over the world. They say, 'I looked on the back of my greeting card and I saw your name, and I love your artwork.'"

Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can be reached at

About The Author

Scott Reeder

Scott Reeder is a staff writer at Illinois Times.

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