Visual artist Meg Wagler’s murals can be found in and around the Queen City. Two notable examples are “The Future Is Bright,” visible to travelers on the Fulbright Spring Greenway Trail, and the colorful poolside flamingos she painted at Oasis Hotel & Convention Center.
The one-time office worker left her full-time graphic design job to commit herself to murals and illustrations, and today she reports she is earning more than she did in her 9-to-5.
She also has time to plan the inaugural installment of the MIDxMIDWST Mural Art & Culture Festival, set for Sept. 10-11. The festival had been set to launch in 2020 and 2021, but COVID-19 had other ideas.
The festival, with attendance goals of up to 20,000, will feature eight muralists, both local and national, at work in the Robberson Avenue alley downtown, these will be interspersed with music, sculpture and virtual reality experiences happening around the artists. After the festival is closed, Springfield will retain a number of colorful murals – and, Wagler hopes, some exciting memories.
“We want to activate space in unexpected ways,” she says. “Our intention is to mold our footprint each year with different wall space, always with a nod to existing pieces.”
In short, it’s an event that is likely to transform outdoor spaces in downtown Springfield while providing live experiences for people to interact with art.
That’s important to Wagler.
“Art is less about opinion and more about conversation,” she says. “In a community or environment that tends to be divisive and polarized, the arts play a pivotal role in releasing some of that tension and putting humanity back in the center of the Venn diagram. That’s where visual arts live.”
Wagler earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Missouri State University in 2007 and then stuck around.
“I didn’t intend to stay,” she says. “I saw a lot of my young professional friends come and go. They didn’t feel represented here, or that there was a lot to stay for.”
Wagler says it was tempting to head off and find a place where her style – graphic, bold, flat art, with striking composition – would be appreciated.
“It was a little uncomfortable to come out and be myself here,” she says. “I was a little nervous to do that, but I was well received in the community.”
What Wagler learned is that differences make the community stronger.
“It doesn’t really matter what your style is as long as you bridge art and the economic sphere,” she says. “When everyone is working together, we can lean on each other’s strength and use art to bridge the rest of the community together.”
Wagler suggests artists work to be part of the larger picture.
“We tend to get in these silos and operate where it feels comfortable, and you can’t grow there,” she says. “The big idea, the big purpose, has always been the community at large. The best way to connect communities is through engagement.”
Wagler can’t wait to see her festival unfold.
A pair of area medical colleges that received state grant funding in the fall are now investing the funds toward technology and new programs with the intent of attracting more students to the nursing profession.