GREENFIELD — The Hancock County Community Foundation recently established the Hancock County Mural Fund as a vehicle to receive gifts to support murals and art projects throughout the community. The foundation’s $5,000 grant combined with gifts from fellow donors supported the first benefactor of the fund, Greenfield’s newest hand-painted mural. The mural captures the elements of the James Whitcomb Riley poem, “A Barefoot Boy.” The artist, Andrew Hem, did his homework to bring the boy and his friends to life.
“I gravitated towards ‘Barefoot Boy” out of the rest (of the poems) because it resonated with me,” he said. “I could relate with the boy because I was always a kid who didn’t have a care in the world, always the first to jump out of my Dad’s car, shoe-less, to the park and beach. I loved jumping into the water and trying to swim for hours, getting lost and having my parents look frantically for me. I guess every boy could relate to this poem in some shape or form.”
While the mural committee asked that Hem incorporate more children into the mural to emphasize a sense of community, he knew he wanted the boy to have the spotlight.
“I knew adding two other figures could take away from that spotlight, so the solution for me was to lower the lighting and change the hue so they weren’t fighting for attention,” he said in a news release. “I wanted the first read of the mural to be strictly on the boy because he is the star of the poem. The other figures are just there to support the main character, not to distract from him.”
Hem said the background is inspired by the Pennsy Trail, though he worked to make the trees in the mural look especially playful, according to a news release.
The mural, completed on Sept. 19, is located on the west wall of 20 W. Main St., adjacent to the North Street Living Alley. HCCF awarded a $1,000 “Connecting Communities” grant to the City of Greenfield to support a pop-up event called “Rock Party” on September 21. People of all ages decorated and painted the creek bed rocks to adorn the base of the mural. Face painting, selfies, and refreshments complemented the fun.