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Nigerian artist paints mural on New England's St. Mary's Catholic Church

NEW ENGLAND--St. Mary's Catholic Church in New England has tarp and equipment outside of its building, but it's not for construction. The church is in the midst of having a large-scale mural painted on its facade. Nigerian artist Dotun Popoola ha...

The sketch provided by Nigerian artist Dotun Popoola shows what the mural will look like on the outside of St. Mary's Church in New England. (Submitted by Dotun Popoola)
The sketch provided by Nigerian artist Dotun Popoola shows what the mural will look like on the outside of St. Mary's Church in New England. (Submitted by Dotun Popoola)

NEW ENGLAND-St. Mary's Catholic Church in New England has tarp and equipment outside of its building, but it's not for construction.

The church is in the midst of having a large-scale mural painted on its facade.

Nigerian artist Dotun Popoola has been in New England since last week working on his latest piece.

"I always tell myself that I was called to preach the message of hope and speak divine truth with accent of love," he said. "And make my generation happy. So whenever I work, I always want people to look at it and smile. A smile could save a life."

He said he started painting in the womb. Poopola said art is what he loves doing most and coming to America for two months every year gives him the ability to explore creatively.

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Popoola only has two weeks to complete the 819-square-foot mural, which should be completed in around 10 days.

St. Mary's Rev. Biju Chitteteth said he has been envisioning a mural on the outside of the church since he began his ministry at the church in October 2012.

"The first time when I came, I thought the church was very beautiful but I thought that the entrance is so plain, that it is meant for something," he said. "I never had a practical plan on how we are going to do it and then last year he (Popoola) came to meet me."

The Nigerian artist, who works as a curator for the National Gallery of Arts in Nigeria, was in Lemmon, S.D., designing with the John Lopez Studio and Gallery when he had the opportunity to lend his artistic ability to Biju.

While in Lemmon, Popoola and Imafidor Jonathan, also of Nigeria, painted a 120-by-15-square-foot mural in Boss Cowman Park.

Popoola said the mural he's working at St. Mary's might be the most important he has ever done and Biju said he believes it will be the largest mural on a church in the state.

"I have done a couple of murals, but looking at the height, maybe this is one of the tallest I have ever done," Popoola said. "I think symbolically this is one of the best."

The mural was conceptualized with the help of parishioners, with whom Popoola worked to finalize a design.

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"I didn't just come up with the concept," he said. "I tried to see people's minds and I want to see the way they see God, the way they see Christianity, the way they see the church. To me, I think, the image, everything, the color, the icons, the symbols I'm going to put on the wall will have great influence on their faith."

Biju said he hopes the mural will invite people back to church.

"This year is the year of mercy and the pope has asked us to keep our doors open," he said. "It's an invitation for people who have fallen away from the Catholic church to come back. And Mary is standing welcoming them."

Bishop David Kagan of the Bismarck Diocese will bless the mural after it is completed, Biju said.

Related Topics: NEW ENGLAND
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