For the Sept. 9 Wine & Art Festival
Not long after winning Best of Show at the second annual Mvskoke Art Market competition, held in April at the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa, Muscogee (Creek) artist Starr Hardridge agreed to paint a mural in Eufaula.
The invitation came from the Muscogee Nation Department of Tourism.
The Department asked for proposals from several artists.
“They wanted either a historical figure or the Muscogee people in traditional dress,” Hardridge said.
His idea was selected. The project will be a highlight of the Vision Eufaula Wine & Art Festival, which will be held Sept. 9, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 105 N. Front Street.
“This will be a representation of the Muscogee people in traditional dress engaging in a social dance, called a Friendship Dance,” Hardridge, 46, said Sunday afternoon as he was finishing up applying a coat of white paint to the north side of E’s Hideaway Restaurant.
The building is owned by Karin Weldin, a driving force behind the Wine & Art Festival, and its predecessor, the Mural Festival.
Early Monday morning, at about 1 a.m., Hardridge spent about six hours sketching the drawing on the side of the building and said would begin painting Monday night.
It is a major undertaking for the artist, who will create a mural 58-feet by 8-feet work of art.
“This is a different kind of deal. I have to work a lot faster. I only have 14 days to do it. My hours are going to be off. Probably at first I will work about 10 hours a day, then at the end of the week I will gauge where I’m at. I may have to work longer hours.”
Most of his work will be done at night, to escape the triple-digit heat that has had the state boiling.
“That’s why I’m making the choice to work at night – that and there is less traffic and fewer people around. I’d rather keep focusing on the task at hand,” Hardridge said.
The acclaimed artist is no stranger to large paintings.
“Last summer the Muscogee (Creek) Health Care had me do two 8-foot by 22-foot paintings on canvas, but I did them in my studio,” he said. “Each one took a little over a month.”
His home and studio are in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he lives with his girlfriend of six years. They plan to get married Oct. 8, after he attends a Muscogee arts council meeting in Oklahoma.
“I’m back and forth to Oklahoma a lot,” said the native of the state. “All my family lives in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
He also spends a lot of time in New Mexico, where his art is sold through Blue Rain Gallery.
“I do a lot of business in Santa Fe, it’s a Native art hub, and art in general.
I’ve been with them (Blue Rain) since 2016, but I’ve been exhibiting in Native art markets since 2010,” he said.
Hardridge says he has always been a traveling artist.
“My work takes me everywhere,” Traveling comes natural to him. His late father, a Muscogee-Creek, was an oil field worker and ranch foreman throughout much of Central Oklahoma. The family traveled a lot.
His mother, an anglo, and father collected Native artwork, but Hardridge was not steeped in the culture till later in life.
He says he has been in the decorative painting field for over 20 years.
“I’ve done a lot of historic preservation in federal buildings, big churches, a lot of major buildings. There is a big demand for historic representation.
Decorative painting was sort of a trend in the ‘90s and early 2000s – people were buying larger homes, spending a lot of time in them. They had a lot of money and the well to do paid a lot of money to decorate their homes. So I got used to doing commercial style painting.”
He said he has experience doing murals, “but this one is special because it is a representation of Muscogee-Creek people before the rest of the settlers came into Oklahoma.”
As Hardridge was putting away his supplies, calling it a day.
A man walked up to him, coming from No. 9 Tavern, across the street from E’s Hideaway.
The stranger introduced himself as Kyle Reans, general manager of Resort Operations for River Spirit Casino Resort.
Reans, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, also owns No. 9 Tavern.
He wanted to talk to Hardridge about painting a mural or something on the space above the outside dining area of the tavern.
Reans was familiar with Hardridge’s work, since Hardridge won Best of Show at the art competition at the resort in April.
They talked briefly and decided to meet later and talk more about another possible art project in Eufaula.
Hardridge said it was not unusual for him to get work in that way, someone approaching him out of the blue.
“You kind of have to put yourself out there. Be in the right place at the right time and make yourself available. Don’t say no to opportunities. I have found if I do the right thing, one thing leads to another.”