Annie Kate Miller poses in front of Brooke Rowlands’ “Tropical Oasis” mural at Sunnyside Diner in Edmond.

A few months ago, two of my closest friends and I went wheels up on a girls’ trip to Austin, Texas. Planning comes naturally to a crew with eight kids combined, so you can bet your child-free vacation we had a solid and overpacked itinerary to guide our carefree days away from home. 

Our research garnered plenty of shopping must-dos and more intended meals than times of day, but we also learned that taking the perfect photo in front of the city’s many outdoor murals was a requisite for our visit. 

Searching for all the Insta-worthy images our iPhones could hold, we grabbed three pay-per-use scooters and whizzed through the college town posing in front of paintings of Willie Nelson, cute quotes in offbeat fonts, and abstract imagery that covered once boring brick facades. It became one of our favorite parts of the trip.

I was reminiscing about our selfie-fueled escape last week when I decided to load up our family and set out on a mural expedition in our own backyard. Amateur photogs and professionals alike love the backdrop that an outdoor mural provides, and since we still have a dozen days until Frankenstein and swamp monsters take over pumpkin-filled streets, we took advantage of the temperate fall weather and headed out to explore the public mural art in our own little college town. 

Prolific muralist and retired UCO professor Dr. Bob Palmer has created more than 3,000 murals to date, and although he stopped teaching in 2014, he continues to paint his large-scale, historically themed murals — currently in Hobbs, New Mexico. His earliest Edmond work can be found next to the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse at 124 East Second Street created from photos from the late 1800s. One of his favorite Edmond murals is at WW Tire (302 South Broadway), and other scenes can be found at Weathers TV and Appliance (2 South Broadway), Sherry’s Drug (220 South Littler), and InterBank (125 East First Street). 

Artist Brooke Rowlands’ brightly colored piece “Tropical Oasis” is a fan favorite on the alley-side of the popular Sunnyside Diner (7 East Second Street). We ran into other selfie pros when we stopped to snap a shot in front of the fun botanical-themed design — a hallmark of Rowlands’ typical artwork. Rowlands, who completed an interior mural for the restaurant, spent five days in the brutal July heat this year working on her outdoor piece that was inspired by bold colors and the feeling of warmth. 

“I thought something bright and fun would bring people together and give Edmond a little pop of color,” said Rowlands, who has a solo show in Oklahoma City on Oct. 17. “I love the aspect of public art and bringing the community together.”

One of the newest murals in downtown Edmond practically has a “wet paint” sign hanging nearby it’s so fresh. Located at the still-evolving Edmond Railyard development, the 2,000 square-foot mural was created by Oklahoma City artist Kristopher Kanaly. Combining bold color choices with high-contrast and loads of shapes and dimension, the signature look of a Kanaly mural rings true here. Taking a little more than two weeks to complete and hand-painted with 350 cans of spray paint, the oversized mural was created around a railyard-appropriate train theme and is a happy and upbeat centerpiece for the outdoor eating area that is a key component of the new dining concept in Edmond. 

A quick walk down the street landed us at another addition to the area’s mural scene. Painted by local artist Chris Cargill, “Psyche” is in the alley behind 14 South Broadway and was commissioned by an art gallery and framing shop owner who saw Cargill’s work at the Downtown Edmond Art Festival. His geometric colored background was created in the spirit of artist Piet Mondrian and the mural also incorporates butterflies in a nod to Salvador Dali. 

“Psyche is the word for butterfly in formal Greek and is used to describe change or metamorphosis,” Cargill said. Completed in October 2018, “Psyche” was Cargill’s first outdoor mural, but he hopes to add more contributions to the Edmond edifice landscape. 

“I got to interact with many people during the process,” Cargill said. “People would stop as they were driving by or going in to eat at nearby restaurants. Several businesses have used the mural for photo shoots and it’s a great selfie spot, which is why public art is really cool.”

Just down the alley from Cargill’s piece, well-known Edmond artist Zonly Looman created a large and boldly-hued mural that spans 60 feet down the back of 100 North Broadway. Painted in two sections, the mural also carries two names — “Buffalo off Broadway” and “A Herd off Hurd.” The project was completed in around three months, beginning in March 2017 behind the original home of Looman’s art gallery (now at 9 West Fourth Street in Edmond). “I knew I wanted to paint buffalo because of the significance in the native culture,” said Looman, whose family is Chumash and Kumeyaay Native American. The piece is dedicated to his late grandfather.

“I also thought Oklahomans would enjoy our state animal being represented in a cool, artistic way,” he said. 

Looman has a pop expressionist portrait mural at Castle Row Studios in Del City and has plans for future large-scale works at his current studio and at First and Littler, both in downtown Edmond.

With an easy hundred selfies under our belt and the mastery of the phone/watch self-timer combo achieved, we stretched out our smile muscles, picked out the best shots, and declared ourselves the winners of our photographically captured mural marathon. No one needs to know that we had no competition. 

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