Smith Cotton Building Mural in Sedalia

Market Heritage and Cultural Tourism Grant Community Highlight: Sedalia's Mural

September 29, 2022 | Logan Breer

Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. (MMSC) partnered with the Missouri Humanities Council in awarding $5,000 grants to 12 selected communities to fund projects focused on strengthening heritage and cultural tourism in rural Missouri. The grant helped each community implement a project and market itself to prospective visitors. These projects will add heritage tourism to the economies in each community. The Marketing Heritage and Cultural Tourism grant was awarded to recipients in March of 2022. Communities started on a range of projects from murals to walking tours to new monuments and building plaques that all highlight each respective community’s history for residents and visitors. Upon receiving the grant, the City of Sedalia got started right away on their project which is a mural reflecting Sedalia’s rich railroad history.

Pictured above: Back row left to right:Building owners Julie and Harry Hoffert, Muralist Stefanie Aziere-Sattler, and Robert Hayden and his daughter Cathy van der Linden. Front row: Third Ward City Councilman Lucas Richardson

Sedalia’s commercial historic district has been around since the late 1800’s with several buildings constructed prior to 1883. This gives Downtown Sedalia a rich past that draws many visitors annually. Joleigh Cornine, the director of the city-led Main Street program, shares that, “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic freezing Sedalia’s cultural and heritage tourism in its place… the Historic Katy Depot welcomed 12,079 visitors.” With the number of visitors to the Historic Katy Depot declining 70% in 2020 as well as many area events and activities being canceled, the negative economic impact the pandemic had on Sedalia is illustrated with a loss of $110,335 in tourism revenue each year (2019-2020). Coming out of the pandemic, a City Comprehensive Plan was put together that outlined goals to position Sedalia as a safe, attractive place to work, live, visit, and celebrate special occasions. Part of this plan was dedicated to, “providing outside sources of entertainment where people feel they can safely socially distance.” This approach capitalizes on the country-wide cultural refocus on places that matter utilizing place-making, historic buildings, and showcasing artwork as a viable economic tool. By purposefully showcasing different aspects of Sedalia’s history through a series of murals which start with the mural between 209 and 211 S. Ohio Avenue and encourages guests to travel from one art installation to another. Guests can discover unique historic buildings and businesses while connecting with visual stories about Sedalia’s commercial historic district. 

Implementing this comprehensive plan, like any plan, requires funding.  Sedalia leveraged $5,000 from MMSC with public and private partnerships which enabled them to increase the size of the mural to be a 30’ x 20’. Stefani Azier-Sattler was commissioned to paint the mural on the Smith & Cotton Building based on her previous work in Sedalia including a mural on the Wildflower Beauty Co. building. The mural that was commissioned for the south side of the Smith & Cotton Building includes depictions of a steam train representing Sedalia’s rich railroad history, the Smith & Cotton Building as it looked back in the days when it still boasted all of its original architectural glory, a P40 “Flying Tiger”, and the B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber for the city’s connections with Whiteman Air Force Base. This project represents part of the first alley activation and was accomplished in stages by community members, business owners, partnerships, and city officials.

Matt Mergen State Farm provided lift

Pictured Above: Lift provided by Matt Mergen State Farm

Pictured Below: Integrity Soft Wash workers.

Julie and Harry Hoffert, owners of Stone Laser Imaging, granted the City of Sedalia use of the south side of their building, the Smith & Cotton Building, to be the home for the new mural. Integrity Soft Wash prepped and cleaned the mural wall with a low-pressure system as a gift-in-kind donation. The alley was closed off by the City of Sedalia with stone barricades at both ends to make sure that Stefani Aziere-Sattler and those working on the mural were able to do so safely. Martin Security Systems LLC has provided service to the City of Sedalia for Stone Laser Imaging’s surveillance system for this area to ensure guest feel protected while in this space. The system will also address safety concerns that downtown residents and merchants had expressed to the city. Other improvements planned include better lighting and paving to increase pedestrian’s safety as this alley is used as a conduit between public parking and area businesses.

As the progress on the mural was nearing completion, Sedalia promoted the businesses surrounding the mural through a “Businesses Around the Smith & Cotton Building Mural” promotional series. Among the businesses promoted through this series are The Pavilion by Frunell Companies which is home to twenty programed public events and open to be rented by patrons; Wilken Music which is home to the Scott Joplin Mural; RAKS Escape Room; and The Venue, LLC. These businesses will be impacted by increased foot traffic as people come to visit the new mural and then explore downtown. The plan to use Sedalia’s heritage to create entertainment opportunities centered around the arts as an economic tool for Sedalia and will bring even more visitors into its historic commercial district than before the pandemic.

Missouri Main Street Connection awarded the Marketing Heritage & Cultural Tourism Grants in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council and the National Endowment for Humanities through the American Rescue Plan Act.