FORT SCOTT, Kan. (KSNF) – Graffiti can be an eyesore, but it can turn into something beautiful through an artist’s eyes.
That’s the goal of a Fort Scott artist, which, incidentally, parallels the artist’s own life story of transforming a rough past.
“I’m really attracted to the walls you know. As a kid growing up, I liked to paint on the walls. I always got in trouble for it. Now that I’m older, you know people think it’s cool,” said Stephen Toal, muralist.
Over the past few years, Toal has been working to turn his life around.
“I battled with recovery from alcohol and drugs. I’ve been sober for almost three years now. My counselor in rehab told me to go back to what I liked to do when I was a kid, so I kind of went back to that pursued art, and I’ve been doing that for three years now,” said Toal.
From there, his passion took off, and now, he’s finding a way to give back to the community that raised him.
“It kind of started down at Gunn Park. There were some racial slurs down there. I contacted Steve saying, ‘hey could you cover this up?'” said Josh Jones, Fort Scott mayor. “He said, ‘well, I kind of already started under cover of darkness, so if I could get approval, it could go a lot quicker.'”
“I love our parks, and I think that’s not a really good thing to see right when you go down there. So if you could cover it up, and cover it up with something nice, that will attract people in there, I think it’s a win-win,” said Toal.
The community began to notice, and Toal’s artwork took off. It brings in people from states away, and it’s becoming an iconic part of Riverfront Park.
“It was a hit. People were taking pictures down there of all kinds of things. I drove down here the other day. There are people from Minnesota stopping, taking pictures, and I talked to them a little bit. You drive down here, people are stopping taking pictures in front of it,” said Jones.
Inspiring city leaders to try and hire even more artists to display murals.
“Giving back to the community is one of the biggest things that I want to do. If you’re looking for the positive in it, it’s definitely going to be positive, and I think the community, there’s more good than bad,” said Toal.