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Beloved Katy Mural Refurbished in Time for Summer Pictures


June 3, 2024

By Natalie Cook Clark


The beloved Katy mural on the side of the Johnny Nelson Katy Heritage Museum is now restored thanks to a massive project. Not only does the massive artwork display Katy’s history, but it serves as a popular picture spot for families, especially during these fun summer months.

The mural was initially created by well-known mural artist Dayton Wodrich, who is known nationally for creating murals for cities that focus on their rich history.


“Every mural has its own identity and this one was special because Katy has a cute history,” says Dayton Wodrich. “It was also nice to see a park being built around the mural.”


Passing the Torch to a New Artist

Wodrichs created the Katy mural in 2002, but most outdoor projects are not able to last long because of wear and tear. Artist Melissa Neill, who handled the refurbishment, believes that is what makes outdoor murals so special because ultimately, they are temporary, and people should enjoy them when they can. Over two decades for an outdoor mural is a big deal!


Wodrich is 88-years-old and not able to work on large-scale projects anymore. He reached out to art contacts that he had in Brenham, Texas and found Melissa Neill, an artist who has also lived in Katy.


Maintaining the Origional Integrity

“The intention was to keep the full integrity of the original, and just brighten it back up. The process started in January of this year and had to go through discussions, bids, and all the proper channels to get approval,” explains Neill.


Neill started the project the last week of March and it is now finished and ready for Katy residents and visitors to see it when they visit the Johnny Nelson Katy Heritage Museum and Katy Heritage Park at 6002 George Bush Drive in Downtown Katy.


“This mural was falling apart. It was flaking really badly, and the first step to restoring was to wipe and scrape as much of the flaking paint off that I could,” says Neill. “Once that was finished the painting could begin. I used scaffolding and ladders to reach most things.”


Neill wasn’t alone. She had help from her family and friends that showed up to assist when they could.


“Everyone loved getting to be a part of something so iconic, and my husband is a champ always doing what he can to assist,” says Neill.


The biggest challenge was the Texas heat, but fortunately Neill had worked with the type of paint Wodrich had used before.


“Dayton used oil paint on his murals (potentially why it lasted so long) but which isn’t typical anymore with the evolution of paint,” explains Neill. “Oil paint is very thick, can get quite sticky, and takes a bit more patience.”


This is the same type of paint that her artist father worked with, so this wasn’t Neill’s first mural working in oil paint rather than acrylic.

Inspiring Other Artists

Artists like Wodrich and Neill hope that the mural not only makes people proud of Katy, but also inspires other artists.


Wodrich graduated from the University of Kansas over 60 years ago with a degree in Fine Art. However, art wasn’t his initial choice. Before joining the service, he was interested in agriculture. It took meeting a guy in the service who was taking a correspondence art class to change his mind. From there he knew he wanted to combine art and history, since he and his wife, who he met at 16-years-old, both loved history.


“By helping communities capture their history through art we are preserving history,” says Wodrich.


Neill hopes that local artists won’t disregard small jobs even if you aren’t getting paid or not getting paid enough.


“The smaller jobs build your resume for the larger jobs,” says Neill.


She also says for aspiring artists to never stop trying to improve their skills.


“Most artist at some point will go into teaching art- embrace it,” says Neill. “It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”


The Katy mural is full of Katy history and a wonderful place for families to visit and make lasting memories. Something new added to the mural is the phrase, "Have a Rice Day," incorporating Katy's rice history.

#COA #CentralGreenPark


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