The Quilted Truck: “Everyone that we’ve met is a piece, a functional beautiful piece of this town, and all together it’s just this beautiful thing.”

Story and photos by Nikki McKim

A mural celebration was held on June 12 in Falls City to unveil the newest mural adorning the side of the building at 16th and Harlan Street. Artists Sarah and Andrew McWilson brought the mural to life, which was described as a symbol of unity and creativity for the community.

The idea for the artwork began a few years back when a mural on the Chaney’s building was so well received by the community that the concept of expanding the collection of murals began. Thanks to the collaboration of Mitch Glaser, the building owner, and Chamber Director Amber Holle, Sarah and Andrew were invited to bring their artistic flair to Falls City.

For the McWilson’s, who have been married for eight years, art is both a passion and a collaborative effort. They refer to themselves as ‘Hand In Hand,’ symbolizing not only their partnership but also their integration with the community. 

“We love public art because it’s inclusive. It’s for everybody. At the end of the day, we aim to capture a feeling,” said Sarah.

During their initial visit to Nebraska last fall, the couple “really fell in love with this place,” said Holle. 

She invited the duo to experience southeast Nebraska’s charm and soak in the essence of Falls City; from staying by Stanton Lake in their home on wheels to exploring the countryside in tractors and jeeps, they took in everything that the people and beauty of Nebraska had to offer.

The inspiration for their mural came from the unique “quilted trucks” they had first seen in a friends photograph, but then observed around Falls City- vehicles patched together with different parts, each telling a story of resilience and unity.

The quilted truck said Andrew, “The metaphor of it is really beautiful. Like you love this thing, it’s a sentimental thing. But also you want to keep the life of it going. So you find pieces and parts that work with it. And together, it makes it stronger and more functional. And I don’t know, the quilted truck. It’s like a metaphor for life. It’s a metaphor for this place. But everyone that we’ve met is a piece, a functional, beautiful piece of this town. And all together. It’s just this beautiful thing.”

The pair took inspiration from the farming community, the sunset over the cornfields, the golden hour light and the people in town.

“It might seem like just moments being lived in ordinary life. But that’s kind of it, right? I think that any chance we have to bring us back to the present moment and know that these times with community with people, that’s all life is,” said Sarah. “It was our goal to capture that. So when we saw that life being lived right outside our door at Stanton Lake, It was like, wow, this is just a beautiful moment of life in this place. And you guys have something really special. I feel like you guys have something really, really special that isn’t found everywhere and that we haven’t experienced it quite like this anywhere else. So we thank you all for being part of the fabric of this place.”

It took countless hours, three weeks, and many, many layers of the 22 gallons of paint for the mural to take shape. As the pair worked, the community rallied behind them, offering their support and resources. From the paint purchased at Farm and City to the lift provided by Justin Brewer, every detail fell into place with local contributions. The dedication and collaborative spirit of Falls City shone through as various individuals added their touch to the project, from power washing by Alex Seeba to tuckpointing work by Brandon Schawang, stencil printing from KawRes and vinyl matching from Merz Inc. Everyone added a special touch to the project. 

“Falls City is a very unique thing. You may not realize this, but it’s just really, really special,” said Andrew. “The fact that you’ll have everything that you’ll need right here in town, and you’re not part of a bigger metropolis. I don’t know. We go to a lot of small towns, and there’s not quite the same energy, lifeblood, or sustainability that we see in other places. And I will say throughout our process of painting this like we’ve never had, the rootin, for us kind of energy that we’ve had here.”

Andrew thanked the town for being “a special place because not every place is like this place.”

The pair said they would love to be part of the Falls City community again in the future for another mural.

The unveiling of the mural was a moment of pride and joy for everyone involved and those who had passed by daily to watch the progress. From the community doodle draw weeks ago, which set the reference points for the artists to create their work, to the ribbon cutting, this artwork, rich with symbolism and poetry, serves as a deep connection between art and community. 

Sarah and Andrew’s words are painted in the mural, “The train passes, and the squirrel crosses the path that leads me home. A robin sings a familiar song the breath between today and night here, I find my way quilted together in the wind and light different and the same all at once,” come together to bring you closer to the meaning, closer to finding a connection to your own story. 

Holle, along with the Chamber Board and building owner Mitch Glaser, was a driving force behind the project. She expressed her gratitude to all who had made the mural a reality, especially to the artists Sarah and Andrew, who humbly shared their talent, highlighting the beauty of small-town life and the power of art to bring people together.

The mural serves as a reminder of the town’s charm and the power of art to weave stories and connections among its people.

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