Want a quick history lesson in a Missouri city you’re visiting? Look for a mural in town. Cities large and small in the Show-Me State like to celebrate their heritage—from sliced bread to the Civil War—with murals. One of the newest was unveiled in the summer of 2019 in Green City.

By Rebecca French Smith

Local artist Joyce Ayers created one of northern Missouri’s newest murals—depicting various cattle breeds in a pastoral setting to commemorate the area’s rich cattle history.

Inspired by murals in Chillicothe and Hamilton, the Green City Museum and Historical Society commissioned the project for the Sullivan County town of 600. “We thought that [a mural] would be really nice here, that it would be a great way to pay tribute to the farmers, the people that have made this part of the country famous, really, for cow-calf operations,” says Jim Heaton, committee vice president.

Jim says Joyce was a natural fit for the project. She has lived on a farm her entire life, used to raise cattle, and has a passion for the subject matter.

Joyce standing in front of the panel showing the Hereford, second from left in the above mural.

Joyce has been painting for most of her 80 years. During a year in college, she learned to sketch and mix colors, but most of her art knowledge comes from reading books on painting and taking online classes to further her skill. This predominantly self-taught representational artist didn’t pick up the brush to make a living until she was 52. After her husband died, she says, she needed a way to earn extra income so she turned to art.

Inspiration comes from the world around her northeast Missouri farm. “I like landscapes and old buildings, old barns,” Joyce says. She’s painted the four historic covered bridges in Missouri, but says she’d like to add more of Missouri’s mills to her list.  

Birds are another favorite subject. Her medium of choice is oil paint, although she occasionally uses acrylics, and she doesn’t typically paint on canvas. She prefers Masonite from the lumber yard, cut to size.

Nature around her northeast Missouri farm inspires Joyce. Above, goldfinches perch on flowering crabapple branches.

“I find I like that better than canvas,” she says. “It’s a solid surface. I don’t like the texture of canvas. I met Robert Bateman several years ago—the famous artist—and he told me that’s what he did. I thought, well, if he can do it I can do it.” 

The mural adorns the museum’s historic, circa 1900 building on the Green City square with a series of 4-by-4-foot panels covering an area 16 feet tall by 36 feet wide. 

It kept Joyce busy all winter of 2018. She says it was a challenge, but “I kind of like challenges.” 

View more of Joyce Ayers’ work at the Arts Incubator in Green City, or online at etsy.com/shop/wildflowerArtbyJoyce. She sells both originals and giclee prints of some of her paintings. You can also find prints of her work at the Missouri Life Mercantile in Rocheport or online at missouri-life-mercantile.square.site.

To learn more about another muralist—one of Missouri’s most famous—click here.   

Article originally published in the June 2019 issue of Missouri Life.