Saturday, November 29, 2008
NewsLeader.Com; Springfield, Mo.;
It's hard to miss the thundering herd of wild horses that appear to be in a cloud of dust charging right at you across a field just north of the James River Freeway.
Actually, the 22 horses -- so large and vivid they can easily be seen from Campbell Avenue -- are a larger-than-life mural on the side of the Wehrenberg Campbell 16 Cine. As many as 50 of the nearly three-yard high images may eventually gallop along the building, said the mural's creator, Susan Sommer-Luarca.
In a ceremony Wednesday, the mural was dedicated to wild horses around the world.
Sommer-Luarca said murals are very important to her goal of worldwide wildlife habitat preservation. She creates the paintings through her not-for-profit foundation, Susan Sommer-Luarca for Habitat.
"I strive to create images that cannot be ignored, not only by their stunning beauty but by the way they will speak to children and adults about the importance of conservation," she said.
Said Jim Hoffmeister, president and CEO of Wehrenberg Theatres: "When you think of all the buildings all over the city ... all the cities and locations ... that she chose our location, we are truly honored to have her mural on our theatre."
Hoffmeister said Wehrenberg and ssl4habitat -- which share the goal of wildlife and habitat preservation -- have created a partnership.
"We are benefited by sharing what we have with others ... Susan by sharing her paintings and her foundation, and those who have adopted horses sharing with the habitat," he said.
Sommer-Luarca is responsible for several murals in Springfield, including a river-and-lake scene with fish on a building at Grant Avenue and Mount Vernon Street, an 80-foot blue whale and calf at the Musgrave Boys & Girls Club, ocean scenes at the Chesterfield Family Center and ARC of the Ozarks pool areas as well as several scenes in the Bass Pro museum.
Her next project will be a panda bear mural on a downtown wall on Walnut Street, she said.
Sommer-Luarca said many horses live on farms in southwest Missouri, but only one wild horse herd exists near Eminence.
"That herd is unique in that it's mostly white -- a very beautiful herd that is now protected."
Wild horses once roamed North America by the millions.
Sommer-Luarca's foundation's goal is "to keep the herds that we have ... through adoption, rescue horses from kill buyers and return older ones to the wild to live out their lives."
Adopt a horse
Horses in the mural are up for adoption. Proceeds go to the SSL Foundation for Habitat.
"When you adopt a horse you can name it and dedicate it to whomever you want," said Sommer-Luarca.
Each donor receives adoption papers plus a photo signed by the artist. The photo is taken after the caption is placed under the horse, she said.
Karen Krittenbrink's adopted horse is dedicated to her children and grandchildren.
Mary Fran DiGirolamo and her friend Sharon Elaine DeRubis dedicated their adoptee to their two cocker spaniels.
"We dedicated it to our canine kids ... Susan took the patterns of the black and white party cockers and created Thundercloud," said DiGirolamo.
Gwen VanDerhoef, along with family and friends, was there to honor Soaring Eagle.
"He's dedicated to our best friend Robert Plaster, who recently passed away," said VanDerhoef.
Horse adoptions are $2,000 and tax-deductible. Payments can be worked out, Sommer-Luarca said.
To adopt a horse, call Krittenbrink at 830-0899, e-mail email@example.com or visit the Web site www.ssl4habitat.org.
"When you adopt a horse you never have to feed it and it will always look good and be healthy," Sommer-Luarca said. "You can't ride it ... it's a free-spirited adoption."
The mural took about three weeks of actual painting time, Sommer-Luarca said.
Many passersby, schoolchildren and nursing home residents visited throughout the process. Some were back for the dedication.
Gypsy Rose Blancharde, who is confined to a wheelchair, is a dedicated horse lover.
She wore a jacket covered with horses much like those on the mural.
"It's beautiful... I love it," she said. "I used to go to equestrian therapy and I rode a horse named Lady."
Her mother, DeDe Blancharde, said they visited the mural when it was partly done and came back for the dedication.
Sommer-Luarca's father used to say she was part Indian and only part of what she wanted to be -- a Pottawattamie.
"He passed away in 2005," she said. "The horse in the mural named Pottawattamie -- a word that's pretty special to me -- brings back his memory."
While she was painting that horse, her mother, who has Alzheimer's, came out to visit.
"When she looked up at that horse, she said 'That's my horse.' So that's their horse," said Sommer-Luarca.
"Pottawattamie is dedicated to my parents, Gerald and Marcia Sommer."
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