As Sara Myer crouched to add another layer of paint to her towering mural, the wind and leaves whipped viciously around her.
She wore a pair of painter’s pants covered in color from earlier projects, a heavy down jacket, a backward baseball hat and black aviator sunglasses to keep the wind and sun out of her eyes.
At this point in early December, Myer had put about 60 hours toward her project — a towering 30-foot by 12-foot mural along the side of Kaw River Rustics in the NOTO Arts District. The wall has been transformed into a sparkling skyline to promote Cirque du Soleil Crystal, an ice skating and acrobatics show coming Jan. 24-28 to the Kansas Expocentre.
Myer is the resident designer at the Topeka Civic Theatre and is no stranger to painting large scenes. Painting the entire side of a building in December, however, held its own set of challenges.
“I was afraid, because at the bottom of the wall some of the paint had chipped away, so I tried to powerwash it to try and get it more like a usable canvas,” Myer said. “But it really wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, so the paint has been taking to it really well. That’s the one thing I was really fearing, because I thought I would have to fight the conditions and fight the material, but it wasn’t like that at all.”
The inspiration for the mural was to provide a photo spot for visitors to take a selfie, while making it look like the person was breaking through the ice crystals.
Myer and Allie Manning, marketing director of the Kansas Expocentre, worked out the details of the design after Manning saw similar murals in Nashville, Tenn.
“We wanted to make it something for Topeka to be proud of and want to share with their friends,” Manning said. “When we walked by this one in Nashville, it had these massive wings, and there were literally 50 people waiting in line to take a picture with this mural, and I thought it was just the coolest thing.”
To create the design for the mural, Myer found inspiration from watching past shows, and said the idea was always to portray someone breaking through the ice — it was just deciding on the best way to make it happen. She also wanted to customize it to Topeka, so she switched out the skyline used in Cirque’s promotional materials for one she thought Topekans might recognize.
“Their main concern was more say on the placement of the words,” Myer explained of the approval process. “If it would be centered, that sort of thing. But they let me have a lot of artistic freedom.”
Myer said the mural is timeless for Topeka — it doesn’t have a date to age the painting — but with time, hopefully, locals will reflect back on the time Cirque du Soleil brought its crystal show to town.
While Cirque has performed a variety of these types of shows, Manning said this is the first show of this type to ever be done on ice, and the first time this particular show is making its way to Topeka.
“They have professional rollerbladers that have never skated on ice before and had to completely relearn their craft,” she said of some of the entertainers.
Manning continued, explaining the trapeze artists hanging from the ceiling, skaters flipping through the air, acrobatic elements and a handful of other aspects of the show left her in awe.
“You think you can imagine what the show is going to be like, but it’s so beyond what you can even imagine — it’s incredible,” Manning said.
For information and tickets, go to cjonline.com/cirque.