FRANKFORT — Artist Sandy Kimura is volunteering her talent by painting a mural that covers the Old Governor's Mansion's entrance hall and the wall along the staircase.
The mural depicts natural Kentucky landmarks as they appeared in the 19th century. Along one section of the main wall, the Kentucky River flows through the landscape in front of the Frankfort of long ago.
At the top of the first flight of stairs, Cumberland Falls rushes into the Cumberland River Gorge.
To make the mural more unique to Kentucky, Kimura said, one official suggested painting two people shaking hands.
"Just like in the state seal," she said. "That'll probably be somewhere."
Kimura, who labors alone on the mural, uses the work of Paul Sawyier and other Kentucky artists as inspiration.
On a small piece of scaffolding sits a book chronicling Sawyier's art. A single sticky note marks Sawyier's Benson Creek Shallows that Kimura wants to depict in the mural.
"I use different references for inspiration," she said. "I have a whole book of different etchings and paintings to use as references while I'm painting."
Kimura, a Louisville resident who has painted murals for 15 years, paints about six hours a day, five days a week. She first thought the project might take four weeks.
"I've been working on this for four weeks and I'm still here," she said as she mixed brown paint on a small plastic plate. "This has definitely been the most time-consuming project I've ever been involved with."
One reason for the delay is the paint she's using. Kimura is experimenting with a blend provided through American Historical Paint. It has a different consistency than normal paint and is very thick.
"It takes about three times of me painting on the area for the color to stay," she said. "I've had to learn how to work with it."
A regular volunteer, Kimura paints murals for Bellarmine University. She learned of the Old Governor's Mansion project through the university.
Kimura offered her services to Susan Moloney, area coordinator for the foyer, and began the mural. It's part of first lady Jane Beshear's effort to revitalize the old mansion on High Street.
David Buchta, director and state curator for the Kentucky Division of Historic Properties, said that the Kentucky Mansion Celebration committee has discussed the idea for a mural in the historic building for about five years.
Historic Properties gave the project a green light last June. Once completed, the mural will provide a unique Kentucky feel to the historic building, Buchta says.
"The mural (will bring) a dramatic and official statement of the commonwealth's rich cultural heritage to the entry foyer for guests and visitors," he said.
"This adds something very personable to the building," she said. "This is a one and only. People will never see this scene anywhere else."
Renovations are scheduled for completion by July 24. The building will then open for tours and as a guesthouse for visiting dignitaries.