By CRISTINA JANNEY
RUSSELL — Fifty images depicting the US armed forces are now depicted on a 66-by-20-foot mural on the side of the American Legion in Russell.
The mural by artist Buck Arnhold, a native of Hays, depicts the trench warfare of World War I, a tank battle during World War II, the Delta battles of Vietnam, and the air, sea and land conflicts of the war on terrorism, as well as service members who served during those wars.
The armed services mural is one of three that Arnhold has undertaken since the beginning of June in Russell.
Murals now grace two sides of the American Legion, 315 N. Main. The other highlights are American Legion baseball.
Arnhold is working on a third mural honoring firefighters on the side of the Russell fire station, 815 N. Maple.
The main baseball player on the American Legion mural is 17 feet tall. The smaller players are almost 5 feet tall. The entire mural is about 20 by 30 feet.
The project was organized by Patty Driscoll of the Russell Original Art Review, also known as ROAR.
Funding for the murals was provided by ROAR, Dane G. Hansen Foundation, Russell County Area Community Foundation and private donors.
ROAR-commissioned murals grace several other buildings in Russell, including the Russell Public Library, VFW and buildings at Eighth and Main and Ninth and Main.
“My major goal for this whole project was to do something so good that it would bring people off the interstate to see it,” Arnhold said. “Plus I really wanted Russell to be proud of having the murals on their Main Street.”
The fire station mural, which is 8 by 12 feet, depicts firefighter jackets and boots with some antique fire equipment. It also features the hat of a former fire chief who died in the line of duty. The corner will include an antique fire cart.
Arnhold is a resident of Olathe. He earned his BA, MA and MFA in art from Fort Hays State University. Arnhold, 70, began his career painting signs in Hays.
“I didn’t have the guts to be a fine artist so I was doing signs and murals and graphics — you name it — race cars, pulling trucks and oil field trucks,” he said.
He eventually moved to Kansas City and worked painting murals for a grocery co-op. The co-op had locations in 22 states. He painted murals of farm scenes and pharmacies. He also carved items, including 12-foot steaks out of foam.
To pass the time, Arnhold began drawing Bo Jackson portraits. He traded one of the portraits for some baseball cards for his son. The portrait led him to do some banners for the Chiefs. He did work for Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith.
Arnhold’s wife was a teacher and that led him to do scores of murals at schools, including the Indians in the Hays High School gym and wrestling room and a falcon at what was then Felten Middle School.
He will be painting a mural at his grandson’s school in Lenexa when he returns to Olathe.
“[I like] the challenge,” he said of painting murals. “It’s not easy. It’s a big animal.”
Arnhold started on the Russell murals at the beginning of June and has only taken two days off during that time. On Tuesday, he said he hoped to be finished with all three murals by Sunday.
He has been working long days from early in the morning to the early evening, bearing 100-plus degree heat.
“The first two weeks I was on this, I go, ‘Are you nuts or something?’ he said. “I was on it and it was hot out. I was fighting those first three [figures] until I got the mojo going. ‘Man, you almost bit off more than you can chew this time.’ “
The intense sunlight also made it difficult to get an accurate reading on the colors in the images, he said. He used a piece of cardboard to help shade the areas he was painting.
He’s stayed with Patty Driscoll and her husband, Jerry. He said that has made being away from home for so long a little more bearable.
In addition to the heat, the surface of the American Legion building has also been a challenge. Arnhold considered painting a base coat of enamel on the surface, but Driscoll encouraged him to incorporate the original color of the brick into the murals. He said he was glad he agreed.
The mortar between bricks also proved to be a challenge in creating the images.
“See how the mortar messes you up,” he said. “Notoriously the eye or the mouth would be on the mortar. You’ve got to play with that.
“I would be working on a face and be this far from it and think I got it, and then I’d drop the lift down and get on the ground and come back and go, ‘Oh no.'”
Arnhold has no plans to stop painting. He’s never been in a gallery, but he’s been able to create art and travel.
He has retired from working at Associated Groceries, where he painted grocery store murals for years.
“I retired as an artist with a pension and a 401(K),” he said, adding that does not happen for artists all that often.