A Valued Foundation
by Charlene Paul
Residents of Moapa Valley gathered at the Old Logandale School on Saturday, November 4, 2017 for the unveiling of the mural entitled Valued Foundation painted by artist Heidi Leavitt. The mural depicts stories of the people who settled in Moapa Valley, and was originally entered in a county-wide competition to select a mural for the Overton Community Center. Leavitt was in the top three of thirty-six entries, but her work was not chosen.
When Paul Lewis, Leavitt’s grandfather, learned she had not won the mural competition, he called and told her the mural needed to be finished. The people and their stories needed to be recognized. He expressed his desire to hire her to finish her mural in a location of her choosing. Together, they approached the board of the Old Logandale School and Cultural Society, OLSHACS, which is now a museum for local history. Directors of the museum, Beezy Tobiasson and Robin Maughan did not hesitate to give them an answer. “It’s a magnificent work of art,” said Tobiasson. “It’s a great tribute to all the families depicted, as well as for all the generations coming up. We’re so privileged to have it here and will value it forever.”
Although her original design focused on the treatment of historic old buildings in the area, she said something just felt a little off. “The more I proceeded, I realized the story of Moapa Valley did not lie in the buildings, but in the people themselves,” said Leavitt. “Those were the stories that needed to be told.”
Paul Lewis hosted a community barbecue for the unveiling on November 4. “I love the mural and I’m so proud of the artist that painted it,” said Lewis. “I think she did a beautiful job.”
“Attendance for the unveiling was overwhelming,” said Leavitt. Indeed, it was standing-room only in the main hall. As the mural was unveiled, Leavitt explained, with deep emotion, each story depicted in the mural’s design. Leavitt said it was a labor of love and that she felt a kinship to those whose lives were depicted.
The mural is oil on Masonite, and measures 8-feet high by 40-feet long. The skillfully painted scenes depict twenty of the founding families of Moapa Valley. The mural begins with a depiction of the Paiute tribe along with the importance of the bighorn sheep in their culture. A portrait of Paiute matriarch Topsy Swain weaving a basket is included in this portion of the mural.
History unfolds with stories of people who pioneered the valley: Harry and Martha Gentry; Edward Syphus; Johann and Ann Bonelli; Lyman and Annie Shurtliff; Joseph and Nellie Robison; Ute and Lovina Perkins; Old Mack, Jack Marshall’s famous horse; Leland and Maudeen Whitmore; Warren Harvey Lyon; Paul and Lou Jeanne Lewis; Clarence and Lillian Lewis; and Martin Allen Bunker. Farms and dairies, as well as early businesses including Glendale Service, Moapa Valley Telephone, Anderson Mercantile, Clark Dairy, Western Auto Hardware, Jones Mercantile, and Cooper’s market are also depicted.
For those who missed the unveiling, the mural can be viewed during regular OLSHACS business hours. “I would like to extend a heartfelt invitation to anyone and everyone to come and experience a past time in our valley, and view a magnificent mural that tells a story of strong and faithful people,” said Tobiasson. “Heidi has created a beautiful and spiritual painting for generations to come.”
Those values handed down from generation to generation, and the foundation they laid are what inspired Leavitt to title her work Valued Foundation. She dedicated the mural to her grandmother, Lou Jeanne Lewis.
OLSHACS is located at 3011 No. Moapa Valley Blvd., Logandale, Nevada. For more information, contact them at (702) 398-7272.