ALTO – A once-familiar sight located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 69 and Texas Highway 21, an iconic mural featuring a map of historical sites in the area, is no more.

Instead, a new mural will grace the wall of the building owned by Ron Rose, with an updated scene that incorporates some subjects from the old mural, along with scenes that celebrate Alto, he said.

“I decided to do the project a long time ago, but was waiting for the other mural to age – it was starting to get faded and bleed through already,” he said.

According to a history of the city posted on www.altoedc.org, the “downtown mural was composed (in) May 2012 when Texas Department of Corrections inmates renovated the side of (a) building on the corner of West San Antonio Street and Highway 69, where (an) old mural map of Alto and Cherokee County, Texas, resided. In December 2012, a local artist painted a new wall mural that denotes a map containing the state’s historical sites of the Alto area’s history and rich heritage.”

The new mural will be designed and created by Marc Eckel of Warsaw, Indiana, “a very gifted, talented artist” whose work graces the walls of The River Church in Alto, where Rose is pastor.

“I first found out about him while we were ministering in New Zealand, where a pastor there had seen him do splat paintings in Ireland,” he recalled.

On a subsequent visit to that country, Rose saw Eckel's paintings and about six years ago, invited him to Alto, where the artist created about five paintings for the church.

“The church members liked it ... our church knows them (Eckel's work), and loves him,” Rose said.

Eckel has been an opening act for Casting Crowns, a Christian music group, and is known for his work as a “splat” artist, flicking paint on a blank canvas to create images.

However, the new mural “is not going to be like his splat painting,” Rose clarified.

Instead, Eckel has drawn an over-size graph (“he's drawn in 12-inch squares; it looks like a big sheet of graph paper”) on the painted-over wall of Rose's commercial building, and will utilize the full wall for the new image.

“I think it's going to be cool,” Rose said, adding that the main response has been curiosity and concern.

“Inquiring minds,” he explained, explaining that at first, “we just brought (Eckel) in to do a painting, but people were intrigued, and the more intrigued they were, the more fun it was (to keep the project under wraps.”

In response to those who are worried about what the new project features, the pastor reassured them that “you don't bring in a guy like that – a world-traveled artist – to do junk. We believe the new mural is going to make Alto a little bit more attractive. That's our goal.”

The project is expected to wrap in early February, with both men mindful of quirky East Texas weather patterns.

“He's here 'til it's done, but the emphasis is on getting through with the project, to be able to get back to his family as soon as possible,” Rose said.

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