The Missouri Bicentennial Paint for a Cause effort visited Dent County last week, with appearances at local schools and at the Art Across the Ages reception at the Ozark Natural and Cultural Resource Center Tuesday night.

Students and receptions attendees were invited to paint a small section of a 4-by-6-foot panel that will be part of a 12-by-30-foot mural displayed at the Truman Building in Jefferson City. Juried Best of Missouri Hands artists Aaron Horrell and Barb Bailey are taking panels throughout the state to be painted.

Over 200 attended at ONCRC, and over 500 sixth through eighth grade Dent county students, plus a few fifth graders participated in school visits to paint their part. School art teachers coordinated.

The panels depict 18 of Missouri’s state symbols, plus the State Capitol building and the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The panel brought to Salem is the Missouri Fox Trotter, a native horse breed.

Horrell owns and manages the Painted Wren Art Gallery in Cape Girardeau. Bailey is his assistant manager. They’ve visited about 25 communities so far and expect to have over 20,000 participants by the date of the Bicentennial on Aug. 10, 2021. More than 11,000 have painted the panels so far, with seven of the 15 panels completed.

Supporting charity through painting was an idea he and Bailey came up with several years ago. “We started doing what we call Paint for a Cause for various charitable causes,” Horrell said. “I read about Bicentennial coming up and the coordinator saying they needed some kind of event that would be big and statewide and incorporate as many people as possible. I asked Barb the next day and she said, ‘Why not?’”

He said Gov. Mike Parson, Sen. Roy Blunt and other legislators have already painted on panels. Horrell is hoping to get participation from the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, among others.

“We’re picking up speed now, getting phone calls, people wanting us to come visit,” Bailey said. “We’re over halfway finished. We had 11,200 people paint before we came to Salem. We expect to have over 20,000 plus when we’re finished. We’ve got another year to go. One of the best things is all the people we’ve met while traveling around the state.”