Historic Riverfront Murals in Vicksburg, MS
Robert Dafford was born on a train headed toward Chattanooga and has lived most of his life in south Louisiana, but he’s also considered by many to be an honorary citizen of Vicksburg. The artist responsible for the 32-panel Vicksburg Riverfront Mural project has spent most of the last eight years in his adopted city painting its history along 12-by-20 foot panels of the flood wall.
Dafford brought a wealth of experience, having completed similar murals in Portsmith, Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio, Maysville, Ky., and Paducah, Ky., where Vicksburg resident Nellie Caldwell noticed his work and chaired the committee to bring him to town.
“I set up a presentation in city hall where I explained the whole process,” Dafford says. “Then my team water-blasted the flood walls and used a coating that fills them up and smooths them out. While the walls were being prepared, I met with historians and came up with a list of subjects that relate to their history.”
From The Famous Teddy Bear Hunt to The Steamer Sprague: Big Mama of the Miss., Dafford designs and completes each mural.
“One of the murals I really enjoyed was Crossing the Mississippi: Last of the Ferries,” Dafford says. “It was a certain type of ferry boat that was developed to transport train cars across the Mississippi. The layout and color was fantastic.”
Dafford says he loves the way Vicksburg residents have rallied around his project.
“Since we began, the city has built a children’s park and playground, resurfaced the roads and landscaped the area,” he says. “People offered us various places for lodging, gave us meals and discounted our materials. I can’t say doing this work has made me rich and famous, but it’s certainly succeeded in saving some old structures and bringing attention to the area. I’ve done the painting, but it’s been an effort from the whole community.”
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