Downtown Joplin is getting another splash of color thanks to a new four-panel mural being painted under the Sixth Street viaduct.

Spearheaded by associate professor Burt Bucher in conjunction with the Downtown Joplin Alliance, the murals showcase three different lions as well as a familiar-looking lantern.

“We’re using Missouri Southern as a platform, but I didn’t want this to be a marketing project,” says Bucher, who spent last Thursday evening working on the project along with a few students. “Each lion will represent a famous alumni or member of the community.

“But this isn’t about painting a pretty picture. It’s about cleaning up the space. The lantern isn’t just an academic symbol, but it’s about bringing light into the darkness – an illuminated, clean space.”

Bucher began working on a concept for the project after being contacted by the Downtown Joplin Alliance. While students have helped with the painting, he says they offered critical input before work ever began by critiquing his concept.

“I told my student if they have to put their stuff up for critique, I should have to go through the same process,” he says. “It was a great learning platform for them.”

Work began in June, and there have been plenty of opportunities for students and community members to help. Another community painting opportunity will be offered wants the fall semester gets under way, he says.

There are some special features being incorporated into the mural, which will likely have an official dedication during the Missouri Southern-hosted Third Thursday on Sept. 19.

Lauren Weiss, a junior art major, says she’s excited to see the project join the ranks of the city’s other murals.

“I was happy to see the murals coming up all over Joplin after the tornado,” she says. “It’s really helped a lot of places.”

Like Bucher, she sees the new project as having a larger meaning than beyond the lions and lantern as symbols of the university.

“It doesn’t have to be solely related to Missouri Southern,” Weiss says. “The lions can also mean having pride in your town.”