BAKER — An inmate artist from the Century Correctional Institute is restoring a local landmark while creating a large-scale depiction of this north county community's heritage.
The public art project replaces the Baker Block Museum's former mural that had deteriorated over the years. Like the original, the new mural celebrates Baker's founding as a railroad town.
In addition to an old locomotive pulling into the town's depot, the painting includes the now-defunct Bank of Baker and the old Hart Hotel.
"The three buildings we're using were all once within a stone's throw of the museum," Baker Block Museum director Ann Spann said.
Spann said she provided the artist, who by Department of Corrections regulations can't be identified, with copies of old photos of the three now-lost buildings.
The museum also provided paint and other supplies for the project, which is expected to take another five weeks or so to be completed.
"This is a massive project," the artist said. The Department of Corrections granted the interview on a condition that the artist’s identity not be revealed. "I haven't done anything this big before."
North Okaloosa Historical Association President Danny Hall said the organization and museum rely on inmate labor from Century for routine grounds work, cleaning and maintenance.
"They are a huge asset to our day-to-day operations and special projects," Hall said. "We could not do without them."
The mural restoration, which is being done by the artist and an inmate assistant, supervised by a Department of Corrections officer, is an outgrowth of the relationship, Spann said.
Community response to the new mural has been positive, with residents patronizing Baker businesses pausing to watch the artist at work, Spann said.
"It's real nice," Josette Phillips said. "I'm glad to see them replacing the painting."
"The mural pulls a lot of people into the museum who want to see what it's all about," Spann said, adding it often attracts tourists passing through Baker from Alabama en route to the beach.
"I'm kind of proud of it," the artist said. "They gave me lots of artistic freedom so I'm adding things like people, the old truck and I'm going to paint an old car in the street."
"We are very pleased with the artist's work and grateful for all that the inmate crew and corrections office does for the museum," Hall said.
Want to watch?
What: An inmate artist from the Century Correctional Institute paints the mural on Baker Block Museum’s east wall
When: 8:30 a.m. until about 3 p.m. most weekdays, weather permitting
Where: Baker Block Museum, corner of State Roads 4 and 189, Baker.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.