FORT SCOTT, KS – Graffiti can be an eyesore, but through an artist’s eyes it can turn into something beautiful.
Covering its rough past up, and transforming it before our eyes.
That’s the goal of a Fort Scott artist, which, incidentally, parallel’s the artist’s own life story of transforming from a rough past.
“I’m really attracted to the walls you know, as a kid growing up I liked to paint on the walls, I always got in trouble for it. Now that I’m older you know people think it’s cool.” Says Stephen Toal, Muralist.
Over the past few years, Toal has been working to turn his life around.
“I battled with recovery from alcohol and drugs, I’ve been sober for almost three years now. My counselor in rehab told me to go back to what I liked to do when I was a kid so I kind of went back to that pursued art, and I’ve been doing that for three years now.” Says Toal.
From there his passion took off and now he’s finding a way to give back to his community that raised him.
“It kind of started down at Gunn Park, there were some racial slurs down there, I contacted Steve saying, ‘Hey could you cover this up,’ and he said, ‘Well I kind of already started under the cover of darkness so if I could get approval it could go a lot quicker.'” Says Josh Jones, Fort Scott Mayor.
“I love our parks and I think that’s not a really good thing to see right when you go down there, if you could cover it up and cover it up with something nice that will attract people in there I think it’s a win-win.” Says Toal.
The community began to notice and Toal’s artwork took off.
It brings in people from states away and it’s become an iconic part of Riverfront Park.
“It was a hit. People were taking pictures down there all kinds of things. I drove down here the other day, there’s people from Minnesota stopping, taking pictures, and I talked to them a little bit. You drive down here there are people stopping taking pictures in front of it.” Says Jones.
Inspiring city leaders to try and fire even more artists to display murals, like Toal’s, and honor the legacy of the community.
“Giving back to the community is one of my biggest things that I want to do. If you’re looking for the positive in it, it’s definitely going to be positive and I think the community, there’s more good than bad.” Says Toal.