Art veteran Gary Lucy is working on a high-pressure commission for the people of Cape Girardeau.
Lucy's job: To enhance the aesthetics of the much-anticipated River Campus, the new home of the arts for Southeast Missouri State University, with a 27-foot-long historically themed mural.
Today they will get that chance when Lucy's work is featured at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri's First Friday opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m.
Only the university President's Council has seen the preliminary so far. But Lucy has been looking forward to showing the work to the city and explaining how the massive two-year project will reach its completion.
"It's always exciting to talk to the people in the area and share the work with them," said Lucy. "It's a very unique opportunity to be able to do this and to be a professional artist and to make a living being a professional artist.
"I've received so many positive responses from so many people in so many different professions ... it's been a very wonderful ride and I appreciated the chance to share it with people."
Lucy is spending much of his time these days working on the River Campus mural, devoting hours in his shop overlooking the Missouri River in Washington, Mo., going over every detail in the huge painting. The mural is being painted on canvas stretchers and will be transported to the River Campus when completed.
A Caruthersville, Mo., native and Southeast graduate, Lucy was chosen for his prominence in the field of historic illustration specializing in river themes, a craft Lucy has worked at for 22 years.
Thanks to the artist's prominence and the River Campus project, the arts council is expecting the Lucy presentation today to draw the biggest crowd in its history, probably over 400.
The mural preliminary isn't the only work Lucy will be displaying. For the entire month of August, 18 of Lucy's historical paintings under the theme "Inland Waterways: The Highways of Our Heritage," will be displayed at the galleries.
The "Inland Waterways" collection features Lucy's detailed illustrations of historical and everyday events on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers at the height of river commerce.
"It's a look at my career as it deals with my studies of the rivers," said Lucy. "This is a study of how rivers built this country and how I've tried to develop that theme."
Each painting is accompanied by an explanation of the scene depicted at its relation to river history.
One of the most visually impressive works is "Eating up the Lights," a painting showing the once-routine activity of placing candles in the water from skiffs to mark safe passage for steamboats.
Familiar sites like Tower Rock at Altenberg, Mo., can be found in the oil paintings, along with historic moments like the building of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis.
Lucy has painted many images of the Lewis and Clark expedition. In "Campsite at Tavern Creek, May 23, 1804," Lucy shows the revelry of expedition men at the campfire while a full moon brightly illuminates the Missouri River.
It was Lucy's interest in the expedition that helped bring him to Southeast Missouri for the exhibition.
Rebecca Fulgham, director of the Arts Council, said the Lucy exhibit was arranged during Cape Girardeau's Lewis and Clark bicentennial celebration in 2003 after the Arts Council became aware of Lucy's interest in the explorers.
Convenient timing has made his exhibition coincide with his work on the River Campus mural, raising the profile of his visit. Lucy has reached a sort of star status in Cape Girardeau, and tonight he'll be signing autographs for the kids at 5:30 p.m. in the galleries.
Lucy, who has a background in art education, should have an easy time working with the children. And there should be plenty of kids at the First Friday, since a display of children's artwork produced in the Arts Council's summer arts camp will coincide with the Lucy exhibit.
This year classes focused on painting, sculpting, collages, prints, papermaking, puppet making, storywriting and music.
For entertainment, a shadow puppet show will be presented by Debbi Bollinger and the kids who took the puppet making and storytelling class. Carol McDowell with Kindermusik, a program emphasizing motor skills and music for children, will have a display from her classes of crafts children made and pictures taken of the children.
For more information on the August exhibit and tonight's appearance by Gary Lucy, call the Arts Council at 334-9233.
335-6611, extension 182
Want to go?
* What: "Inland Waterways: The Highways of Our Heritage" exhibit with Gary Lucy
* When: Reception with artist tonight (Aug. 5) from 5 to 8 p.m.
* Where: Arts council galleries, 32 N. Main St.
* Info: 334-9233