‘Sunflower State of Mind’
Thursday, December 1, 2022
filed under: News
Mural in Small Kansas Town of Clay Center Helps Bolster Community Identity & Pride
There’s a new mural in Clay Center, Kan., that’s turning heads, making headlines and breathing new life into the small community.
The mural, titled “Sunflower State of Mind,” is the 25th mural to be painted in the city since 2020. Created by C. Stanley Creative of Orlando, Fla., the 2,080-square-foot mural installed on the side of the Wardcraft Home Store building.
“It really is the crown jewel of locations in Clay Center,” says Brett Hubka, community bank president of GNBank in Clay Center. “It’s right along state Highway 15. There’s a stoplight there, which gives each passersby plenty of time to study the mural and even snap a picture.”
Much thought was put into what this mural would be. Committee members wanted to make sure the murals weren’t repetitive, so they held a contest, asking artists to submit ideas. They received 34 entries from all over the United States. C. Stanley Creative’s design was selected by a seven-person committee. They chose the design because they say it embodies the spirit of Kansas with the state flower – a sunflower – and the state bird – the Western meadowlark.
Television news reporters have traveled from Topeka and Wichita to tell the story of “Sunflower State of Mind.” The mural was featured on the front page of Grass and Grain, a regional newspaper.
Hubka still shakes his head at it all. He moved to Clay Center, population roughly 4,500 people, about eight years ago. Located just 40 minutes northwest from Manhattan, Hubka says Clay Center had a great opportunity on its hands, given its location and traffic through town. Something was needed to attract drivers off the highway and to stop in Clay Center, he notes.
That’s where the murals came in.
“It’s something that had been talked about for years, but just never happened,” Hubka observes. “Every time that wall got close to getting something painted, it would fall through, either from a lack of funding or content approval.”
When Hubka became Rotary Club president in 2020, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“Each Rotary Club president picks a project, so I picked murals as mine. We raised money, one thing led to another — and before you knew it, we had nearly a quarter-million dollars to spend on murals,” Hubka reports. “Some of the money was from grants, but most of it was through generous donations from people and businesses in the community. Even our Clay Center High School alumni got involved; we ended up with donations from 23 different states.”
The effort to paint murals in Clay Center became known as “A Mural Movement.” Artists from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas and California painted the first 24 murals. They feature different aspects of life in Clay Center, including a postcard-style greeting mural and a collage of license plates in the shape of a sunflower.
“Many people say ‘Sunflower State of Mind’ is their favorite mural of all 25,” Hubka says. “That’s rewarding to hear, and it’s neat to see people from all over passing through town, and you can see them taking pictures of the mural when they’re stopped at the light. It’s really helped put Clay Center on the map.”
Hubka’s term as Rotary president ended in 2021, but he remains involved in the mural project. He says as long as there’s money available and buildings to paint, he’ll work to make sure more murals come to life. His next big dream is to have a mural painted on the side of a large steel grain bin in town. That project could carry a $30,000 price tag, but Hubka is hopeful the annual fundraising event might bring in enough money to make it a reality.
Learn more about “A Mural Movement” on Facebook by searching “A Mural Movement of Clay Center.” There you’ll also find a link to a map of all 25 murals, as well as photos and artist information.
“Sunflower State of Mind” has become more than a mural; t-shirts, coffee mugs, pint glasses, magnets, stickers and postcards of the mural are all available for purchase. Proceeds of the mural merchandise benefits “A Mural Movement” and goes towards future murals and mural preservation. — Jody Kerzman
||Left: "K15," created by William Chapman, is another of the more than two dozen murals presently dotting Clay Center landscape. The town's mural project also has branched into a variety of goods available for purchase, including t-shirts, coffee mugs, pint glasses, magnets, stickers, and postcards.
Photos courtesy of Brett Hubka