Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.


'Paint for a Cause' honors veterans, raises funds

Ever wanted to thank local U.S. veterans in a way that is personal, meaningful and fun? At the SEMO District Fair this September, you can do so by taking part in a "Paint for a Cause" project, the brainchild of local artist and Navy Seabee veteran Aaron Horrell.

Earlier this week Aaron, excited about approval from Fair officials, called to give an update about the project, which he's been working on for months. Aaron had originally briefed me on his idea a few weeks after the "Business Today Newsmakers Award" ceremony last year, where he was honored, not least for his founding of "Paint for a Cause."

The Fair project will invite members of the public to add their brush strokes to a 10 foot by 5 foot painting that will be placed in the lobby of the Missouri Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau.

"We are asking $1 for each person to participate, though anyone is welcome to donate more," Horrell said. "Whatever they feel."

All proceeds will then be split evenly among those veterans at the Veterans Home to give them a little spending money, Horrell said.

"There are about 150 veterans there. I'd really love to present each one $20 or whatever is raised so that they know people are thinking about them."

Horrell and his wife have already committed personally to paying for the space at the Arena Building during the Fair, where the painting will take place. Local real estate developer and fellow Seabee Tom Meyer is making a special support stand to hold the artwork in progress. And Canedy Sign Company will be donating the panel, which Horrell described as an "aluminum composite material, very durable."

"Canedy's donation is a huge help," Horrell underlined.

The panel will include a "templated outline" of the painting designed by Horrell, which people will paint over with acrylic. Horrell described the template as including an image of the veterans home on the bottom and on the left side a large eagle sitting on a limb. Across the top will be an American flag fading into the sky and on the right side, a C-17 transport plane.

Horrell takes great pride in the works he oversees as part of "Paint for a Cause," and it's very important to him that this painting is exceptional, because of whom it is honoring and where it is going. An individual who wants to take part doesn't have to have artistic experience or talent, though. Horrell will be there throughout the Fair to help and teach and show how best to be a part of this project.

"I will close the Painted Wren Gallery for the Fair week, to be there every day from when the Arena Building opens to when it closes," Horrell said. "No matter how many people paint on it, I want to make sure they do a really good job. We'll keep a record of all who paint, their name and city, and that will go into a brochure to be there at the Veterans Home. I expect hundreds of people will want to be involved. Might be 500 people, I don't know, it could be a record [of people participating in a single painting]."

Horrell explained that he expects to be completely worn out, being there all day for 8 days, but he's seen how powerful these kinds of projects can be. His first "Paint for a Cause" project involved 256 people, which benefited Safe House for Women. Since then, he's orchestrated collective projects on behalf of St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Watkins Wildlife Rehab, Easter Seals and others.

After the fair, he and gallery partner Barb Bailey will complete the painting and touch up and sharpen the edges, whatever needs be done to make it something outstanding for the Veterans Home. "I want people to walk into the Veterans Home and say, 'Oh my God, that's really good.'"

Horrell pointed out not everyone attends the Fair and he doesn't want them to feel left out. If you're interested in making a donation, you can mail a check to: Painted Wren Art Gallery, 223 South Plaza Way, Cape Girardeau, MO, 63703. Make checks out to "Missouri Veterans Home" with a note indicating "Paint for a Cause". Or call Aaron at 573-579-1000. If any business or individual would like to participate as a sponsor, he or she should also contact Aaron.

Horrell expects someone might donate a frame. "I'm not sure who that person will be yet, but I'm sure someone will step forward. There are lots of ways people can sponsor or help this project. I don't know exactly how they'll do it. The radio stations have always been good in the past, just talking about these projects. It's a lot of fun for a good cause."

The Fair is still a couple months away. But it's never too early to start planning your visit. One must-see stop: the giant painting, inside the Arena Building. For a dollar, or whatever you feel you can do, you can join a project to honor local veterans in a proud, beautiful way.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications: jrust@semissourian.com.