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Local artists put finishing brushstrokes on mural

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The trek continues, as visitors to the International UFO Museum and Research Center and its park are encouraged by a new mural to board a hovering spacecraft. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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A new downtown mural isn’t quite finished yet, but people already are taking their photos by it.

That’s one of the main purposes of the UFO-themed artwork on the north wall of the International UFO Museum and Research Center.

Adding some additional art and beautification to the area is another goal.

Larry Bob Phillips, the director of the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program, is painting the concept originated by Kathy Lay, executive director of MainStreet Roswell.

The mural depicts a hovering spacecraft and is meant as a photo attraction so that people taking selfies nearby will appear to be heading onto a UFO.

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“It was already complete in its aesthetics and concept,” Phillips said. “It is nice to be able to worry about the technical issues, the optical issues, and help someone else achieve their vision.”

On the wall by the museum park at the intersection of Main and Second streets, the mural is expected to be finished by the end of this week or early next week, weather permitting.

“I have noticed that there are a lot of people in the park, checking their phones, walking their dogs or smoking a cigarette,” Phillips said. “People do use this park and they are already taking photos.”

Phillips is being assisted in the work by local artist Justin Richel.

Previously a staff member at Meow Wolff, Phillips was a member of the Artist-in-Residence program starting in 2009. His work is on display in many states, and one of his sculptures can be seen in the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art. His work also is featured on an electrical box at West Second Street and North Richardson Avenue.

Richel will begin the Artist-in-Residence program in January, following his wife, who was a resident about four years ago. A painter and sculptor who has been part of solo and group exhibitions since 2002, his publicly displayed local artwork includes an electrical box at the corner of East Second Street and North Virginia Avenue.

Phillips said that the project interested him partly because the colorful work is something of a stretch for him. While he has completed several murals and incorporated cosmic elements in his work before, he said that he usually paints in black and white.

This time he is spray-painting using acrylic mural paints in many hues of purple, yellow, silver, white, blue and black. He and Richel said the paints are specifically designed to withstand the sun and elements and probably will last for about 20 years.

The project is a joint effort of the UFO Museum and MainStreet Roswell. MainStreet Roswell received a $4,000 grant from the New Mexico Resiliency Alliance in July for the work, while the UFO Museum contributed a matching amount.

Some people will want to enjoy it just for its visual interest, but Lay said that it also will provide “organic marketing” for the Alien City, as people post selfies on social media.

“MainStreet Roswell is thrilled with how the mural is looking and are very grateful to Larry Bob Phillips for accepting this project, and to the International UFO Museum and Research Center for allowing and helping to fund this public art project,” Lay said. “We believe it will have a positive economic impact and help inspire additional interest in Roswell as a desirable destination.”

At some point after the mural is finished, MainStreet Roswell plans a social media campaign, #showmethemuralRoswell. A winner selected randomly will receive a prize — alien and UFO-themed, of course.

Senior writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.