FAIRHOPE, Ala. — Ordinarily seen only in black-and-white photographs, the men and women who founded Fairhope can be viewed this weekend in vivid color, when a wall-sized mural depicting their vision for a utopian community on Mobile Bay will be unveiled Friday afternoon at the Fairhope Museum of History.
“Photography back then was a black-and-white world, and we have a lot of those pictures around where this painting will be hung,” Museum Director Donnie Barrett said. “The mural is a brilliant display of color and is really going to add a lot of pizazz and interest to our museum. To put that colorful painting in the middle of that black-and-white world is really going to be a great addition.”
Local artist Dean Mosher’s “Founders Vision: ‘A Fair Hope of Success’” has been three years in the making, he said recently at his studio, while putting the finishing touches on the 8-by-12-foot mural, which will hang on the south wall of the museum.
“The painting encapsulates the spirit of the people who worked so hard to give us what we have today,” he said. “All of them gave up comfortable lives elsewhere to come here because of their beliefs that they could create a better life for others.”
The mural will be unveiled at 4 p.m. at the museum, which will remain open for that evening’s First Friday Artwalk. Larry Thomas of the Fairhope Single Tax Corp. will emcee the event and reception that day, Mosher said.
“Everyone who comes here has a sense that there is something different that makes Fairhope what it is,” said Mosher, regarding one of the reasons for painting a mural as an homage to the town’s founders whose lives and philosophies he came to admire after moving here in the early 1970s.
“I got involved with a group of artists and others, many of whom had direct connection to the founders. Later, I became a member of the Fairhope Single Tax, (Corp.) and went on to serve on the board, and my interest just deepened.”
Mosher’s painting depicts people significant to the Fairhope colony’s early days, including E.B.. Gaston and his wife, Clara, James Belangee, Clement Coleman, Frank Brown, Lydia Comings, Marietta Johnson and Marie Howland.
“They stood out because there were so few of them,” said Barrett, regarding the decision about which founders to include in the mural. “During those first years, their contributions really stood out. They got here with 18 people and within a few months they were down to 10. For the most part, they were the ones who were the backbone that kept the colony alive.”
Today, Mosher’s large-scale paintings, many depicting moments from U.S. history, hang in museums at the U.S. Naval and Coast Guard academies, as well as at historic sites and national park visitor centers around the country.
Mosher has donated his mural of the founders, which is valued at between $80,000 and $100,000, and has been paid for privately, to the Fairhope history museum, he said.
“I’ve gotten about a quarter of that from people who have donated for the mural,” he said, adding that no public monies were used in funding the painting.
When the surrounding display for the mural is completed, it will include an interpretative kiosk on the upstairs balcony, Barrett said, which will provide information about each founder in the painting and relics belonging to each person found in the museum.
This Friday, residents and visitors will be the first to see the colorful wall-sized painting displayed in public.
“From the top floor, you’ll be looking straight into the painting,” Barrett said. “You can almost touch it from the balcony. You’ll be able to get as close to it as you want.”
The Fairhope Museum of History is located at 24 N. Section St. and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free. For more information on the museum or the June 4 reception, call Barrett at 929-1474.