The 2015 cattle drive from the Trinity River basin through Dayton will soon be depicted in a mural on the E. Clayton Street water tower in Dayton. At Monday night’s Dayton City Council meeting, council approved a design by Mary Victoria Fielder Taylor.
The mural titled “Higher Ground” is being funded through a grant from the Dayton Community Development Corporation.
Taylor, a Dayton native and Dayton High School graduate, left home after she married an Army officer several years ago. After her husband reentered the civilian world, the couple moved to New York City so she could pursue an art career at the New York Academy of Art.
“Home was always on my mind and as soon as we realized that New York City was going to be the hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic, we decided to move back here for good,” she said. “I was absolutely thrilled and tickled really when the City reached out to me about painting these murals. It turned out that instead of moving to New York City to be an artist, I just needed to move back to Dayton.”
City leaders approached Taylor about designing the artwork for the mural. Aside from wanting it to reflect Dayton’s rich history, their only request was that the mural be painted with bright colors.
“It was important to me to communicate something about what Dayton represents. I thought a lot about this. As someone who has been able to view Dayton from and outside and inside perspective, I researched attributes in murals that go viral, and many included words as well as pictures. I considered painting a scene out of Dayton’s history, but this mural will be viewed for decades and decades into the future, so I settled on something out of our recent history.”
Taylor explained that the inspiration for the mural design came from photos and news reports she had seen of the cattle drive while she was living in Savannah, Ga.
“A news reporter called out to one of the cowboys and said, ‘Where are you taking them?’ One called back, simply, poetically, ‘Higher ground,'” Taylor said. “Higher ground. It says so much about this City and who we are as a community. Of course we are literally situated on high ground. It also calls to mind a hymn – ‘My prayer, my aim is higher ground.’ It also communicates something about our values. We are hopeful, open-hearted, working people. We drive boldly forward into the future and have a deep reverence for life.”
The Council encouraged work to begin on the water tower as soon as possible.