One of Denison's most honored former residents, Dwight D. Eisenhower is being portrayed by a larger-than-life, black-and-white mural in the city's downtown historic district.
The mural decorates the side of a building adjacent to historic Hotel Denison at the intersection of Burnett and Chestnut.
The project is a dream-come-true for former Denisonian Steven Bohall, who's art career began in Denison with a high school art contest. Bohall currently lives in Kansas City, Missouri and has returned to Denison to paint a mural on the side of a building facing Chestnut street.
“It's nostalgic for me to come back all these years later,” he said. “My art teacher here was really encouraging. Art is essential to keeping history alive. A lot of the sign work now is vinyl. It's done by a machine it doesn't have much of a soul. Art is more personable.”
As he was standing in the street observing his work, a citizen driving past thanked him for the work he is doing.
Bohall said he's been following the stuff going on around town on Facebook and he loves how enthusiastic the people have been.
“It is amazingly cool,” Bohall said. “I think it is kind of neat Denison has stayed true to his roots. They still have their downtown main street with all the cool buildings. People are doing a lot to keep it going. It's pretty impressive.”
Bohall got his start in art as a senior in high school when he did a painting of an old building that is no longer there. He said in addition to a trophy, he received a cash prize of $25 which he said was a lot of money to a teenager in 1980.
Bohall is no stranger to doing this type of portrait art. He often finds himself doing paintings in restaurants and bars because it's where the people are. Its the organic nature of art that he fell in love with.
As a native Denisonian, Bohall said he used to live on Gandy Street close to the site, and it's really special to him to have his art displayed next to the historic Hotel Denison which he said was a very beautiful building.
After high school, Bohall joined the military as an illustrator before getting into doing art professionally in 1995.
“There is something about it that appeals to people,” Bohall said about art in general. “Whenever I do artwork people sit by the art, there is something organic about it. It is one of a kind. I couldn't paint this like this again if I wanted to.”
Bohall was approached by Denison City Council member Brian Hander to do the job. Hander said the project is funded through sales of Denison history books. Hander also helped pick out the photograph that was used.
“We're trying to honor our hometown heroes with our latest murals,” Hander said. “We will have this one and possibly another Eisenhower one in the next few months. We want to let people know more about the people in our town.”
Bohall said he was really impressed with how vibrant Denison's downtown is with all the colors and shops, he said it really feels like a destination more than just a street. He said he is honored to get to be a part of that, to give something back to his former hometown.
The mural, which is visible from Forest Park, took Bohall just over two days to complete.