You may have seen the mural of a beekeeper on the side of the Watts & Webb building downtown. The Boone County, Arkansas Beekeepers Association took notice of it as well.

The group held its monthly meeting on the parking lot facing the mural Tuesday evening and honored two of the people responsible for the mural’s creation.

Association president Sandra Center said the association wanted to hold the meeting at the mural and thank Mary Beth Hatch and Paulette Jech for their work that helped bring attention to the importance of bees and pollinators to the world.

Hatch was the Harrison Middle School EAST facilitator when work began on murals in the city.

She explained that Jeff Crockett, who wasn’t mayor at the time, approached her with the idea of having students paint on the underside of the Lake Shore Drive bridge. Students were still attending classes at the old junior high nearby at the time and it seemed to make sense.

She began seeking a funding source.

She secured a $2,000 Voya Unsung Heroes Grant for the district through Voya Financial for innovative classroom practices. It was earmarked for painting murals on several businesses in downtown Harrison as part of the Natural State/Natural Art project.

The city Convention and Visitors Bureau also took notice and has helped with grant funding as well.

Hatch has since gone to work for North Arkansas College, but the mural project has been planned for a long time. CVB executive director Matt Bell recently told the City Advertising and Tourism Promotion Commission that Hatch will still be working on the mural project in the city.

Students in the EAST class worked on designs for murals, then professional artists were contracted to bring those designs to life. Hatch said the idea was to instill inspiration and productivity in those students.

Hatch told the beekeepers that Watts & Webb was the first business to sign on for the mural project, but it took time to bring it to fruition. But when she saw the design, she knew she wanted Jech to be the artist.

Jech, a former art teacher, told the beekeepers that she spent about 30 hours actually painting the mural, although that didn’t include time for preparation with sketches and design. Eleven students helped painting the hexagons that represent honeycomb.

Hatch said she had also secured a grant from Arkansas Game and Fish to create a pollinator habitat at the Middle School, so the beekeeper design was a natural fit.

With pollinators responsible for up to two-thirds of the food we eat, the beekeepers thanked the women for their efforts. They were also each presented with a pint of honey from Robison Farms.

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