WILLMAR - Ron Adams' latest community mural, Graceland, is a symphony of music, dance and diversity. So it is only fitting the artwork will hang in the Willmar Community Center, where all three take center stage.
"The big thing that really joins people together is music and dance," Adams said.
He also wanted to make sure many of Willmar's different cultures, races and communities were represented in the three-panel, 7- by 14-foot mural.
"That was essential to the whole purpose," Adams said. "We are not just a community of one race or culture. It is nice to have a variety of people."
The mural will officially be unveiled on Sunday at the community center, as the main event at a celebrate community event. The celebration begins at 2 p.m. with fiddle music by Dempsey Schroeder and Maggie Harp. The mural will be presented at 3 p.m., with an artist reception at 3:30 p.m., music provided by WASO String Connection.
Sunday's event is the conclusion of a project that has taken years to complete.
"If you count everything, we come up with about two years, at least two years," Adams said.
Before brush and paint could be added to canvas, Adams first had to design the mural. To add a sense of reality to the painting, Adams used photographs of actual people as models.
"About half are based on people that I knew or took pictures of myself," Adams said.
All of the people have their own stories, but a few of them are personally special to Adams. They include his father and grandchildren. There is also Ruby, his long-haired dachshund, running among the dancers and musicians.
Adams' musical influences are also represented. The title Graceland comes from the Paul Simon song of the same name. And a very familiar and famous musician can be found on the canvas.
"Like putting John Lennon on there. The Beatles have always been very important to me," Adams said.
After the design was complete Adams first made a 1/6th scale drawing of the mural, before he sketched the full-sized mural onto the canvas panels. Using panels, instead of painting directly on to a wall, allows the mural to be moved if the community center ever gets a new building or does major remodeling work.
The finished product is fairly similar to the original pencil drawing, but Adams said he did make a few changes along the way.
Painting did not begin until January. Adams worked every day, four hours a day for months. It wasn't just painting all the figures, the background consists of hundreds of tree leaves and shadows.
"I finished in the first week of November," Adams said. "The background drove me entirely insane."
The mural and Adams' time to create it, cost approximately $8,000. The majority of the money, $5,700, was raised through donations from 43 organizations and individuals, including Vision 2040, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Healthy Together Willmar, Divine House and Walt and Raeanna Gislason. The remaining funds were covered by the Willmar Community Center.
Adams admits to feeling a bit lost now that the mural he has worked on for more than 2,500 hours is done.
"It becomes such a big part of your life," Adams said. He has started to move on to other paintings, as well as easing off a bit on his everyday work schedule.
When Graceland is hung in its place of honor, it will be the last mural unveiling Adams will be the guest of honor for.
"This is the last Ron Adams mural," Adams said.
Adams' mural work is also hanging in the Willmar Public Library and the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building.
Adams admits he said the county mural was going to be his last. But then Darlene Schroeder from the community center asked him to take out his brushes again. So, when he said the community center would be his last, some don't seem to be so sure.
"When I said that to my daughter, she just laughed," Adams said.