High Street Building Will Be Canvas for Joe Prescher’s Civil Rights Mural

Six four-by-eight foot wooden panels have been bought and primed for local artist Joe Prescher to begin painting a civil rights mural to be mounted on the exterior wall of a building in uptown Oxford.

The mural will be 24 by 8 feet and be mounted to a wall behind the Rittgers & Rittgers law office, 121 E. High Street, facing the Oxford Community Arts Center.  

The creation of the mural was spearheaded by Ella Cope, a Talawanda High School junior who is hoping to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award with the completion of this community service project.

Cope chaired a review committee that worked with Prescher to create the design. The committee also consisted of Valerie Elliott, a regional historian at the Smith Library, Kathleen Brinkman, a representative of Oxford Citizens for Peace and Justice, and Bill Miller, a local social justice proponent.

The group contributed design ideas to include “the names and faces of people and organizations that were from, had worked, or were based in Oxford and advanced civil rights during a variety of time periods dating pre-civil war to the 1970s,” said Cope.

The mural will be framed by a blue station wagon. “The station wagon functions as a symbol for forward progression of civil rights here in Oxford,” she said.

The station wagon references the vehicle that was found after the murders of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, three Freedom Riders who traveled south to help register voters.

The three men were trained with other volunteers on what is now Miami University’s Western Campus from June 14-27, 1964, during was came to be known as Freedom Summer.

“Murals usually have a contracted life span,” said Cope. By painting it on removable panels, the mural can be moved or transported if needed. “This fulfilled the sustainability aspect for the Gold Award,” she said.

She estimated that the mural could stay up for five to ten years, and it could then be relocated at the discretion of the Public Arts Commission of Oxford.

Prescher will begin work on the mural next week. The finished mural will be unveiled at the Oxford Community Arts Center’s Second Friday Celebration on June 14.