Hettinger may get mural by artist of St. Mary’s wall art

A picture is worth a thousand words, or more.

By COLE BENZ
Herald Editor

A picture is worth a thousand words, or more.

A few months a go, in late summer, Jim Goplin with the Dakota Buttes Visitors Council was approached with the idea of painting a mural somewhere in Hettinger. The artist was familiar to Goplin, it is the same person—Nigerian-born Dotun Popoola— who painted the wall-sized mural in Lemmon and New England, not to mention the art done in June at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Hettinger.

Popoola is a painter, sculptor, and the curator of the National Gallery of Arts in Nigeria. He became connected to the area through John Lopez, a local artist in Lemmon. Popoola was looking for more exposure for his art, and the connection to Lopez brought him to Lemmon.

He previously told reporters interviewing him in New England that “painting is my passion, sculpture is my profession.”

So far, the reception Goplin has received has been positive.

“Everybody that I’ve been showing it to, it was favorable comments,” Goplin said.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church Priest Stephen Folorunsa, who has a connection with he artists (they are both from Nigeria) said that Popoola’s work visa prohibits him from making in a income in the United States, and that he doesn’t do it for the money. He wants to use it as a chance to display his work, as a venue for his art.

“[It’s something] a lot of artists do,” Folorunsa said.

Though he can’t take an income, Goplin said that they would make concentrated efforts to raise funds for the project. Among expenses and supplies, they could donate a sum to Popoola as a token of appreciation.

The murals in New England and the work already done in Hettinger are both attached to churches, and have a faith-based theme to the design. The mural in New England features the Virgin Mary next to the hands of God, with a group of spectators gazing up at the holy entities. It is on the wall of St. Mary’s church right on Main Street.

The current art in Hettinger is a depiction of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) on the back wall of the sanctuary. Popoola also design and painted a child-themed mural in the kids room just off the front of the sanctuary.

The project in Lemmon featured a 120-foot by 15-foot mural of Ed Lemmon, behind a sculpture of the same person.

Stephen said that it doesn’t matter the season, he would paint in cold or warm weather, though it’s better in warm weather because people can come up to the location and admire the work-in-progress. Cold weather would create an obstacle for that interaction.

Stephen said that it would be a good addition to the city.

“I personally think it would be a great, great thing for the city,” he said.

Goplin has been given a few different sketches for some ideas on what the mural in Hettinger should look like. How that selection will be made has yet to be determined. Most of the designs have relations to the area’s history, which he likes.

“It shows a little history of the community,” Goplin said. “But it’s some artwork, it’s something that’s quite different and unique.”

He also said that they are currently scouting locations for the site, with a few places standing out among the rest. But Goplin didn’t want to comment on specifics until some things have been finalized.

“We’ve looked at potential locations, that would be good locations,” Goplin said.

He anticipates a start time for the project sometime in late spring and early summer.

With more than three different locations housing his artwork around the region, Popoola is certainly putting his artistic footprints around North Dakota.

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