The zombie apocalypse is coming to Central Kentucky in a big way.
Odeith began work Tuesday in downtown Cynthiana on a mural paying homage to the popular Walking Dead comic books and television series. The series was created by Robert Kirkman, and the original comic book artist was Tony Moore. Both are from Cynthiana.
The mural, which is to be finished in time for a public celebration next Wednesday evening, depicts four main characters from the series: Sheriff Rick Grimes; his son, Carl; Michonne; and Daryl Dixon.
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The horror series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. Grimes leads a small band of humans struggling to survive. The comic books are set in this Harrison County town of 6,400 people. The cable TV series, which was launched in 2010 and has been a hit with both critics and viewers, has been set in metro Atlanta and Alexandria, Va.
Kirkman, who also is executive producer of the TV series, and Moore plan to be back in Cynthiana on Aug. 6 to talk with fans during Walking Dead Day.
This mural project began last fall, when Lexington entrepreneur Griffin VanMeter was looking for a big wall where Odeith could paint a mural. The artist had done one in 2013 on a Bryan Avenue building VanMeter leases, but it was accidentally painted over. VanMeter was so embarrassed that he reached out to Odeith and arranged for him to come back to Lexington to create a more prominent work.
Roger Slade, one of three partners who own the circa 1871 Rohs (pronounced Ross) Opera House in Cynthiana, wanted a mural and contracted VanMeter, whose wife is from Cynthiana.
Slade offered his theater wall, but VanMeter decided instead to go with the side wall of Lighthouse Ministries on Elm Tree Lane. Like the Abraham Lincoln mural on the back of the Kentucky Theatre, the Louis Armstrong mural has become a Lexington landmark.
But Odeith liked Slade’s theater wall, so they began discussions about a future project. Slade knew he wanted the mural to have a Walking Dead theme to honor the series creators, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that Odeith showed him his design.
Odeith said he has become a fan of the TV series, and he enjoys working in Kentucky. “It’s always good to come back here,” he said.
Slade, Cynthiana Mayor James Smith and Phillip Nickerson bought the old opera house five years ago. With Kirkman’s help, they installed a new screen and digital projector to turn it into a modern movie theater. The house also hosts two or three live productions each year by a community theater company.
Slade and Smith hope this mural will be the first of many that the Cynthiana Arts Council sponsors throughout downtown, which has a wealth of historic buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“We’ve been experiencing a shot of downtown revival,” Smith said. “A lot of small shops have opened up, and a lot of owners have started to fix up these old buildings.”
Emily Ammerman, an Arts Council board member, said she hopes the mural project will help boost local appreciation for the visual arts.
“We wanted this first mural to really make a statement,” she said. “And it’s great to honor the Walking Dead, because it has been such a big hit and people here are proud of the local connections.”
This mural will cost about $8,000, Slade said, including Odeith’s artist fee.
The Harrison County Community Fund made a $2,000 grant toward the project. VanMeter’s company, Kentucky for Kentucky, donated $2,500. The Arts Council contributed $500. Several thousand dollars’ worth of equipment, paint and labor have been given by Wayne Gossett, Jeremy Courtney of Extra Mile Painting and the opera house.
The Arts Council hopes to raise $3,500 more through an appeal on the crowd-funding website Gofundme.com.
“If there’s any money left over from this project, it will go toward the next mural,” Slade said. “We have a lot of walls in downtown we want to use.”