All Roads Lead Home mural coming to Aurora

Seth Kinker
Aurora Advertiser

Last year, the Aurora High School Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) discussed a mural as one of several projects. That project, along with several others that included a community appreciation dinner, a time capsule project, a concert and a talent show were all put on hold due to the pandemic.

The YEP was chartered in 2012 at Aurora High School by Kim McCully-Mobley, a teacher in the district, and Brad Boettler, a junior high principal and co-director of the YEP with McCully-Mobley. YEP is part of the leadership class that McCully-Mobley teaches at Aurora High School and that class focuses on community services and opportunities designed to give students a vested interest in their community.

 They’ve held events to assist with starting a dialogue and educating people in ways to fight the war on poverty in the Ozarks as well as promoting a legacy of community impact projects designed to create and promote a sense of “paying it forward.”

This spring, the mural that will be coming to Aurora on the north wall of Children’s Smile Center, a nonprofit dental facility for children, just south of the square at Madison and Church.

Last fall, Jackie Barger from the Children’s Smile Center reached out to McCully-Mobley and wanted to brainstorm with her about something for his building.

McCully-Mobley went and took some photos of his building and reached out to the Springfield Art Museum, who she’s partnered with in the past on Placeworks grant funding.

Placeworks offer a wide range of customized arts experiences for students and teacher in rural schools at no cost to the district. Placeworks is a partnership with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and the Springfield Art Museum with funding coming from the Louis L and Julia Dorothy Coover Charitable Trust Foundation.

More funds were received from donations from local individuals and the Aurora Area Community Foundation Affiliate.

The mural, titled “All Roads Lead Home,” comes from McCully-Mobley.

“I love Aurora, its rich history and its colorful people,” said McCully-Mobley. “I graduated from here and have always lived here. I have worked as a newspaper reporter, a newspaper editor, an educator, historian/storyteller and a grant writer. I tag much of my work with the All Roads Lead Home mantra. Home is as much a place of the heart and mind as it is a physical spot.”

The mural will be used to commemorate, celebrate and promote the town’s 150-year history as well as its future. The mural was initially planned last year for the sesquicentennial celebration that was canceled because of the pandemic.

“It is a sense of place project designed to initiate dialogue, stories and a true sense of community pride and spirit,” added McCully-Mobley.

Included in the mural’s design will be depictions of the mining industry, the railroad, the mill, the shoe factory, the Houn’ Dawg and agriculture.

The design was chosen by a panel made of McCully-Mobley, Boettler, Barger, the artist Raine Clotfelter and his colleagues including Keith Miller, Darrell Campbell and Les Brown Jr.

They met on Jan. 22 to hammer out the details in McCully-Mobley’s classroom. They looked through some photos and talked about highlights of Aurora before Clotfelter went home and began to create some drafts.

Clotfelter is a muralist with a massive portfolio of work and McCully-Mobley first heard about him last Christmas when she took some of her students to Monett on a field trip where they saw two murals and visited their historical museum.

McCully-Mobley was talking to Murray Bishoff, a board member of the historical society, and Clotfelter’s name came up when talking about his work in Monett.

McCully-Mobley heard Clotfelter’s name brought up two more times in different places before she took it as a sign and reached out to him in January. Clotfelter was the missing link with no visiting artist from the Placeworks program able to come and supervise the project because of the pandemic.

“I called him from school, it was in January, and I left this horrible, rambling message that basically said, ‘I’m Kim McCully-Mobley, I teach at Aurora High School, I’ve got a grant for a mural and everywhere I go your name comes up so I’ve decided God wants me to call you. I don’t have very much money, I know you’re a professional and people need to pay you but I’m fundraising,’” said McCully-Mobley. “Then I was sitting there just horrified thinking, ‘oh my gosh I didn’t just leave that nonsense message on some poor guy’s phone,’”

“About ten minutes later he calls me and says, ‘Kim?’” added McCully-Mobley. “I say, ‘yes,’ He said, ‘This is Raine,’ and I said, ‘Hey, listen…’ And I started to apologize for the message. And he goes, ‘You know, I don’t really care how much money you have. If God told you to call me, I’m in,’ And that’s pretty much where it’s gone from there.”

The YEP has raised $5,000 thus far and hope to match it with another $5,000. Those funds will be used for supplies, lodging, food and stipends for Clotfelter and his crew with leftover funds to be earmarked for future mural projects involving local artists.

The project is projected to start as soon as next week as Clotfelter finishes up a project in Cassville and is estimated to take a few weeks with a month budgeted to account for weather.

“I looked at his website and said, ‘Oh my gosh if I could get him, that would be the jackpot because he’s awesome,’” said McCully-Mobley. “I left this nonsensical type message for him and here we are a few weeks later getting ready to start a mural.”

Clotfelter and his team also talked with McCully-Mobley about the possibility of making a documentary to go along with the mural in telling the story of Aurora, with students and local officials involved.

“We’re hoping it will be not only a mural project to help celebrate Aurora’s sesquicentennial we didn’t get to celebrate,” said McCully-Mobley. “but that also it will segue into other projects that will help keep us on the map in terms of tourism, business industry, quality of life and as a place to live. We want to be that friendly neighborhood town.”

The grant for the project was written by the leadership class as part of the YEP and is labeled as an intergenerational project that brings those of all ages, interest and walks of life together for a common goal. The YEP works with the Houn’ Dawg Alumni and Outreach Center advisory board, the community counterpart to the YEP.

That common goal is to preserve, promote and protect Aurora’s history as well as their climate and culture. McCully-Mobley added that it’s also meant to give a push and start the conversation of what Aurora will look like in the future.

 “Of course, we want jobs, quality education and quality of life,” said McCully-Mobley. “Things for people to do and places for them to go. We want them to know all those layers (of Aurora). We’ll have students who will help trace the mural and also help with set up, take down and clean up.”

At least one city official has reached out to McCully-Mobley about the possibility of more murals in the community with McCully-Mobley adding that it was hard to pick and choose what went into the mural and that there were plenty of places around town she could envision more being painted.

McCully-Mobley also said that the YEP is considering doing a time lapse documentary of the whole project themselves, with different voices from the community telling the stories of the Houn’ Dog, the military, the mill, the shoe factory, while the mural is being painted in the background, with the idea of editing it all together and unveiling it alongside the mural when both are ready.

Donations for the project can be sent to:

All Roads Lead Home Mural Project

C/O Aurora High School YEP

Attn: Kim McCully-Mobley

305 W. Prospect

Aurora, MO 65505