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Serving: MO

Art in the country

Paintings on abandoned concrete silos bring consumers closer to farmers.

Abandoned railroads with their rundown depots and grain elevators line the country’s midsection. However, in the old Missouri River town of McKittrick, Mo., is a place where history is adorned by art.

McKittrick is a small town across the river from Hermann. It is a place where the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad once stopped. Today, that railroad is no longer active. The metal rails are pulled up and filled in with gravel, and it is now a state park designated for hiking and biking and known to travelers as the Katy Trail. Still, like many other small railroad towns, there are remnants of the past at each location.

In this Montgomery County town, all that remains is the depot foundation, coal sheds and an old concrete grain silo. And it is the silo that brings a little beauty to this small town.

River art canvas

On two sides of the grain silo are canvases painted by Billyo O’Donnell. The paintings depict rural Americana, highlighting the area’s river and agricultural heritage. The Katy Land Trust, established in 2010 by Dan and Connie Burkhardt, funded the art project.

At McKittrick, these banners pay homage to the river. On one side is a rendering of two boats tied to the shore at Berger Bend, while the other is a scene from the bluffs to the west near Bluffton. Come to find out, this is the second set of banners displayed along the trail. The first is near my own home area of Treloar on yet another abandoned grain elevator; this one is metal.

Visual consumer connection

I contend that anytime you travel the Missouri countryside, you are looking at a work of art. From the bright green tractor in the brown cornfield to the white farm pickup parked in front of a green alfalfa field, there is beauty. Still, there is something about marrying art with history. It makes people stop, look and think.

For a moment, they see a great piece of art. Then they look a little further at the canvas, not the painted canvas, but what holds it in place — the silo. If they don’t know what it is, they look it up. They find its tie to agriculture, to the food they eat. Then hopefully they realize the trail they travel is right in the heart of where their food is produced.

They always say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For me, the beauty of art in the country is bringing consumers closer to farmers. Perhaps we all should add a little art culture to our farms. Just a thought.

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