‘Higher Ground’ mural in Dayton finished

Mary Fielder Taylor stands in front of her finished mural on a E. Clayton Street water tank in Dayton. Taylor, a Dayton native, is a Dayton High School graduate. This photograph was taken by a fellow child of Dayton and fine artist, Troy Montes.

The City of Dayton has unveiled a new mural created by local artist Mary Victoria Fielder Taylor. The mural is painted on an 18 X 30-foot water tank on E Clayton Street in Dayton and depicts the 2015 cattle drive from the Trinity River basin through Dayton.

The mural was funded through a grant from the Dayton Community Development Corporation.

“The city believes in the ability of art to inspire hope and draw community together. Taylor was inspired by images that made national and world-wide news of Pat Henscey and his dogs as they drove cattle through the city of Dayton, toward higher ground before a flood,” said Betty Tankersley with the Dayton Enhancement Committee. “The mural tells a story of hope and resilience in times of hardship and represents the big-hearted and hard-working nature of the community.”

The mural was drawn onto the water tank in pencil and painted in oil paints in deep and stormy hues that rise into bright and joyful light.

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.

When New York City became an epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic this year, Taylor returned home to Dayton.

City leaders approached her 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.”

For more information on the artist, follow her on Instagram at @maryvictoria.


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