Like the thousands who donated money, materials, work, time or talent to Joplin’s recovery from the 2011 tornado, the pattern repeated itself on Wednesday when a butterfly emerged in a new city park from generosity and collaboration.

The unveiling of an interactive mural of a butterfly was celebrated in Mercy Park, which itself was dedicated only Saturday as the latest achievement in the city’s rise from the rubble-strewn aftermath of the mile-wide storm that killed 161.

The butterfly mural is made of weather-resistant tiles, rather than paint, and is the last project of Joplin Proud, a committee of volunteers that organized the five-year observance of the tornado recovery. That effort included a May 22 community picnic and remembrance ceremony. The butterfly has become the symbol of Joplin’s recovery and is based not only on the rebirth in the tornado zone but on stories from children who told of being rescued or protected during the storm by “butterfly people,” which adults have interpreted to mean angels.

 What makes this public art project interactive is that people can stand between the outstretched wings of the butterfly for photos and videos.

“It was designed so that someone can stand there and become part of the wings and tell their own story of their recovery, their efforts and their hopes,” said Patrick Tuttle, the director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau and a member of the Joplin Proud Committee.

The $25,000 project was funded by State Farm Insurance, which provided $10,000 for the mural; Wal-Mart, which paid $12,000 for the installation of the wall; and Joplin Proud, which funded the $3,000 cost of the mural lighting, wall capping and tile sealing.

“This is a special thing for us,” said Jared Pyatt, of State Farm Insurance. “It was special for us to give our all and take care of customers five years ago.  To see this today with smiles and happiness and what this represents, the recovery and the strength and the resilience, I think it is the perfect symbol for the residents of Joplin.”

Wal-Mart took a direct hit in Joplin, losing its store at 15th Street and Range Line Road. That store was rebuilt and open for operation about six months after it was toppled by the funnel.

“We’re so proud to be a part of this today,” said Lee Autry, Wal-Mart’s market manager for the Southwest Missouri region. “On behalf of the 43,000 associates that work in communities in Missouri, I would tell you that we are just ecstatic that we are able to be a part of this.”

Whitehill Enterprises made the tiles for the mural. It’s founder, Paul Whitehill, recognized those sponsors and also the artists who designed the mural, A.J. Wood and his son, Jordan Wood, of Mythiq Art and Mural in Joplin.

“This image will have a lot of meaning and different meanings for people,” Whitehill said. “I think it’s a great symbol today that we started off with the storms and the skies cleared, and we’re gathered here, and we’re all moving forward.”

A.J. Wood said the inspiration for the detailed elements of the design is patterns.

 “Life is full of patterns, and they’re fairly predictable,” he said. “You could see that when the tornado came. The pieces of the town were torn apart, but they were still all there. And then people came in and took their efforts and their kindness and compassion and started to put the pieces back together again. It’s an image made of patterns, so it’s like a puzzle that’s been reassembled.”

He said he has studied in art and antiquity the patterns found in Phoenician and Egyptian art and the Greco-Roman culture, and those influences can be seen in the mural details.

“In the last four or five years, there’s been a resurgence,” he said. “There’s a real craze with people who have not typically been artistic, and they’re getting into drawings made of patterns.”

“Even the pattern of what happened here with the storm coming and having the upheaval and then people getting together. That’s been repeated over and over again; it’s just that it happened to us this time.”

‘Never hide your wings for without them you would not have flown above the past. Always show them, for they are the strength that you have become.’ — Author unknown

Source: The Joplin Globe | August 31, 2016