Katy Trail painting chosen for Columbia's annual commemorative poster

Monday, August 13, 2012 | 7:05 p.m. CDT; updated 10:56 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 13, 2012
The city's commemorative poster shows a bicycle leaning on a fence on the Katy Trail.

COLUMBIA — This year’s commemorative poster for the city of Columbia depicts a rust-red bicycle leaning on an unpainted wooden fence in front of the Katy Trail, an abandoned railroad converted into a bike path.

The image reminds Rene Heider, a member of the jury that chose the painting, of her childhood. “It conjures up the bike I used to have,” she said.

Chris Stevens, manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs, sees it is a symbol of the future of Columbia.

“We’re becoming a bike-friendly community,” he said.

The artist, Colette Brumbaugh, points out the contrast in the painting, titled “Bike on the Katy Trail.”

“I was struck by the rusty bike with the abandoned rail in the background. It reminded me of times gone by but, at the same time, people are riding by,” she said. “It was a connector of people and it’s been converted to the same thing.”

For Brumbaugh, the honor of having her artwork chosen for the poster highlights a long and sometimes frustrating career. She found it difficult to paint while working, at different times, as a substitute teacher, a historic preservationist, a freelance graphic designer and an engineering draftswoman.

“You have to wear a lot of different hats to make it as an artist,” she said.

While struggling to balance work and passion, Brumbaugh kept in mind the example of her mother, an artist forced by the demands of life to abandon her craft. “I didn’t want to see myself not keep up with my talent,” she said.

Those concerns disappeared four years ago, when Brumbaugh retired so that she could concentrate on art full time. “I was like a kid in a candy shop. I’ve been thrilled since I’ve been able to do this,” she said.

Throughout her career, Brumbaugh has found nourishment in Columbia’s art community. She meets weekly with the Columbia Palette Group to paint with local artists in cafes and restaurants, and she travels around the state with a pair of painters from the area in search of majestic landscapes. She is a member of the Columbia Art League, which provides a gallery for her to show her art in.

“This is an art-friendly town,” she said. “There are lots of open, friendly artists here.”

Columbia’s Office of Cultural Affairs is selling the poster for $15. Proceeds from the sales will go toward city arts programs and to non-profit local arts organizations, Sarah Dresser, the program specialist, said. In past years, commemorative posters have raised $10,000 to $15,000.

“We always look for ways to fund-raise and we can’t do everything we want with the city budget,” Dresser said.

The painting had such a powerful effect on Raonak Ekram, who hosted the fundraiser where it was unveiled, that she's considering buying it. The image of the bike next to the path makes her recall memories of cycling with her family on local trails.

“The artist did a great job of showing what is unique about Columbia," Ekram said. "It has a lot of green space and outdoor activities.”

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Kevin Gamble August 14, 2012 | 11:14 a.m.

It's a lovely image, and a good reminder of where the soul of this community is, and what we value most. And an unfortunate contrast with the current state of our town, which is being slowly buried under cheap, fly-by-night development, cut-rate concrete, and hand-over-fist removal of as many mature trees as possible.

Thanks to Brumbaugh for her work, the inspiration of her pursuing her art, and her focus on what's most important at the end of the day. May such reminders help guide our public decisions.

And thank goodness for the Katy & MKT trails, and all their connected trails!

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