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'Kelly's Coffee' takes center state

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

The official unveiling of the artist Bill Stevens' mural "Kelly's Campfire Coffee" began in typical Cowboy Capital of the World fashion - with a bang! To announce the start of the event, Roy Dugosh, chairman of the Bandera County Historical Commission, fired one shot of his replica .44. And, what more appropriate way to begin a celebration in Bandera?
The morning of Thursday, Sept. 3, Dave Burrel, prime mover behind the City of Bandera mural project, presided over the "unveiling" of the first of three proposed art pieces to be painted throughout the city. As an homage to one of Bandera County's favorite chuck wagon cookies and all - around cowboy, Kelly Scott, artist Bill Stevens had spent 51 days, stretching from May to the end of August, painting a series of four-foot by eight-foot panels of "Kelly's Campfire Coffee." The mural is an oversized version of Stevens' original oil, which is now on exhibit at the Frontier Times Museum.
During the 2015 National Day of the American Cowboy celebration in July, Scott was inducted into the museum's Texas Heroes Hall of Honor.
In May, city council approved a $7,000 expenditure by the economic development corporation for installation of the mural.
Burrel selected Stevens' piece to be transformed into Brobdingnagian proportions attached via wood stretchers to the side of a small office complex owned by former Bandera Mayor Don Clark. The complex is located at the intersection at 12th Street and Highway 16 North.
In an earlier interview, Stevens said although the panels would be attached to Clark's building, the artwork would be owned by the EDC. When asked about upkeep, Stevens said that could be accomplished by "a hose and Mother Nature."
The mural will serve as the first introduction visitors have to Bandera as they enter the municipality. Always looking to improve a good thing, Burrel said, "I'd like to get some lights so the painting will be visible at night."
A noted western artist, Stevens painted the huge canvas during the early morning hours, using the shell of the now defunct Cabaret Dance Hall as his studio. According to Burrel, Stevens told him it really takes two artists to do this kind of work - "one to paint and the other to tell him when to stop."
While creating the mural, Stevens also served as an adjunct professor at the Southwest School of Art, teaching a course in cartooning.
In a 1997 feature story in the San Antonio Express-News, Stevens told writer Jasmina Wellinghoff his heart was in western art, particularly in paintings that depict "aging cowboys relaxing at the end of the day." If that is the case, "Kelly's Camp Coffee" has become Stevens' penultimate work.
During last week's informal ceremony, Burrel announced plans for a second mural, this one to be attached to the side of the Bandera Volunteer Fire Department stationhouse facing Hackberry Street. That painting, also by Stevens, who has been designated as Bandera's "resident artist," shows longhorns crossing the Medina River. This depiction gives a nod to Bandera's past as a staging area in the 1880s for trail drives north.
"We're looking for a place for Bill to do the painting," Burrel said, explaining, "The floor of the Cabaret has been donated to a new church being built by Ridin' the River Cowboy Fellowship."
Burrel also asked the crowd to search through their archives for historical photos that might be used as murals on other buildings throughout Bandera.
After the dedication, Scott served up some "good hot coffee" to anyone brave enough to sip the steaming brew on a 90º-plus morning. And, because this is the Cowboy Capital of the World, there were quite a few takers.