We here at the Clayton Fire Department have been asked many times about the meaning of our mural at our fire station. Below is an article written by the Post Dispatch.
Mural Adds Character to New Fire Station
By Ryan Heinz
Staff Writer St. Louis Post Dispatch
The once-white back wall of the Clayton Fire Station is now predominately black from charring. A billowing grayish smoke breaks through the darkness, linking a series of images from recent and distant past. Everything from a new fire truck to a trio of courageous, hose wielding firefighters can be seen through the haze.
While the individuals depicted are no doubt heroic in appearance, there is an undeniable foreboding vibe depicted throughout a new wall mural overlooking the red and black emergency-response vehicles, as seen when peering through the station’s bay door windows facing Forsyth.
Then again, the job of a firefighter is far less sunnier than say, that of a florist. And as is pointed out by Alderwoman Beverly Wagner, it is considerably more life threatening.
“It’s the reality of what firefighter do, “Wagner said of the new mural. “They’re involved in such dangerous situations.”
Completed by Rock Falls, IL artist Heather Shore earlier this month – with final touch ups to take place in a few weeks – the bold wall painting has captured the eyes of many passersby.
"It’s drawn quite a few people into the fire department, which is kind of what we were looking for,” said Clayton Fire Chief Mark Thorp.
Since moving a few years ago into the new station adjacent to City Hall, the fire department has been working to raise funds for such a mural. Through T-shirt sales, the department raised $1,200. But that was much less than the $12,000 needed to commission the piece.
Then last year, the department quickly responded to a two-alarm blaze apparently started from lightning affecting a home’s add-on sunroom on Ellenwood Avenue. While the fire was contained to two rooms, the smoke damage spread throughout the hose. Still, the firefighters were able to salvage much of the family’s irreplaceable items, such as photo albums and other personal memorabilia.
The victims received an outpouring of support from the Clayton community, but the family wanted to show their gratitude for the Clayton Fire Department’s efforts.
“We decided to take that support and turn it into something the fire department wanted,” said former Alderwoman Jill Belsky who with the Clayton Art Commission, helped organize a “Red-Hot” fund raiser at Bar Napoli.
“There was such a feeling of wanting to recognize the Clayton Fire Department’s outstanding services to the community,” said Wagner, the Board of Aldermen’s liaison to the Art Commission. “They raised all the money they needed in one night."
From there, Clayton firefighter Brian Zinanni, who formally worked with the Rock Falls Fire Department, contacted his former cohort’s wife, Heather Shore. An art teacher by day, Shore has taken to painting dramatic fire-station wall murals following Sept. 11, 2001. It is her way of honoring her husband’s work, as well as all firefighters who risk their lives each time they respond to an alarm.
For the Clayton wall mural, Shore used a series of vignettes to tell the department’s history. It includes the old fire station, the Clayton ladder truck in action during a University City fire, and numerous real firefighters, such as Carl Heggemeyer, a 35 year veteran with the department. There is also a sepia-toned rendering of the first Clayton ambulance, replete with some ominous looking men. This was brought up earlier to an amused Thorp, who points out they are actually real-life St. Louis police officers posing for a picture because they donated the vehicle to the Clayton Fire Department.
“That is an accurate representation” Thorp said, still smiling. “That’s how they looked; here’s the picture.”
Beyond public interest, Zinanni said the mural has added some much- needed zest to the somewhat plain appearance of the station’s interior.
“We were at a 75-year-old station before this, and that had its own character,” he said. “While all the amenities are great at the new building, you lose some of that character. This just helped give us a little something.”
Shore will return to Clayton during the weekend of the St. Louis Art Fair, Sept. 8 through10, to complete the mural and discuss her work with the public.