Source: Gary Brock videoKim Lattimer-Reeder talks about her son’s Kurt mural as she puts the finishing touches on it two weeks ago in downtown London.
LONDON – Kim Lattimer-Reeder sat on the ground in front of a small portion of the 60-foot long, eight-foot high mural on the wall at 58 E. High St. in downtown London. With a can of paint and a brush, she carefully applied the paint near the image of a skateboarder at the far left of the mural.
Later, perched on a ladder, she worked on the other side, putting the finishing touches on the waving American flag.
It was a sunny and beautiful Friday afternoon. For Lattimer-Reeder, it was emotionally hard to be doing this.
But it was also just the opposite, she says.
On this Aug. 11, she, her husband Tony, and several close friends worked to finish the mural started last year by her son Kurt Lattimer, who died at age 27 on May 9 at his grandmother’s home near Zanesville.
They wanted to finish what he had started. But his family and friends are doing more.
In addition to finishing the mural, there is also an exhibition of Kurt’s artwork happening now through September and also an annual art competition, “The Kurt Lattimer Aspiring Artist Award” for Madison County high school students with a prize of $1,000.
The exhibition, called “To be Continued…” runs now through Sept. 24 at the Gallery on High, 5 E. High St. Hours are Thursday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m (with a reception to be held Friday, Sept. 8 from 5-8 p.m. for the public.)
“Everybody who worked on this mural cared about Kurt,” Lattimer-Reeder said after the finishing touches were completed. “I wanted them to finish it up. It was the five of us who finished it. I think it came out very good. He would have been proud.”
It wasn’t as if the mural could not have stood as it was the last time Kurt worked on it, which was late last winter.
“He worked off and on as weather and time permitted him to do so,” said family friend Mick Harris. He owns the building where the mural is located. “He just about had it finished up before winter hit.”
How did the mural come about?
“The mural was something I wanted to do for a while. When we bought the building, I thought it was ugly. I have a passion for the London community, and where we have planted our roots. The images on the mural have things that are personal, important to me,” said Harris, an IT specialist with AEP.
He said that both he and his wife Natalie believed that it was important that the mural be done by someone local.
“I talked to a few artists, including a few out of the area. Then I realized you had the London Visual Arts Guild right here in London. So I actually pitched the idea to them at one of the meetings. Kim goes to my church and I talked to her about it. Kurt was there and he was very interested,” Harris said.
“I showed Kurt sketches, and right away he started sketching and laying it out.
“Man, he’s got it,” I thought. “I realized I wanted him to do it. When he agreed to do the mural, I was so pleased.”
Kurt started the mural last March, the spring of 2016. “We had to wait on the weather to break before he could start on the wall,” Harris said.
“I didn’t realize how good it was to turn out.”
Lattimer-Reeder said, “He just about had it done, and was working still when it was pretty cold outside. He was trying as best he could (to finish).”
Harris explained the images in the mural that Kurt drew.
“In the Mustang in the mural is Bob Sommers. That half of the mural I wanted for me. I wanted there to be something about Bob in the mural. Bob was a farmer who owns Cognac Farms near London, and in the mural he is leaving the farm and coming out of the cornfield in his car and moving toward the sun … either a rising sun or a setting sun. I don’t know,” said Harris.
Also on the right side is “pretty much everything in the community; picture of the First United Methodist Church, a train, the flag that represents our community,” Harris said.
The title of the mural is “Where Dreams Come True.” Harris said that is why he wanted a local person to do the mural.
“London is a place where dreams can come true. I know a lot of young people say they can’t wait to ‘get out of Dodge,’ but everything and anything you could want you can find right here. You can dream as big as you want, the people and the community, you can find it all right here if you look closely enough,” Harris said.
The left part of the mural includes a bright, beaming sun, and on the far left is the image of a skateboarder.
“The skateboarder on the left is Kurt. He skateboarded a lot,” she said.
The talented Kurt Lattimer
Reeder said that after her son died, the results showed he had cerebral and pulmonary edema caused by a combination of medications — essentially a heart attack.
“He was working on his art at the time he died. The night before he died he was finishing up a piece that will be included in the show. He hadn’t signed it yet,” she said.
She said there was a number of unsigned pieces by her son. “We were hoping to eventually work together and do freelance projects,” she said. She is an artist and instructor of art at Clark State Community College.
Kurt worked for Roby’s Memorial Designs & Lettering in London. At Roby’s, he did memorial etchings. He had done a number of these etchings on monuments “more than I ever realized. I’d say 20-30…maybe more, plus smaller items on monuments. They are trying to find them all,” Lattimer-Reeder said.
Kurt attended London schools — kindergarten through 12th grade — with one year at Tolles Career & Technical Center.
He received a scholarship from the Columbus College of Art and Design.
“But he just went there one year. Then he was diagnosed as bipolar and had some mental health issues, and it was just too much stress. The Columbus College of Art and Design is a hard school. Plus, he moved out that year, worked full time and also carried a full load at school. I told him he was overdoing it,” she said.
What was her son like? “He was more introspective. He had a lot of friends, he was well liked. He wasn’t super social, but had lots of friends,” his mom said.
Kurt played guitar in a band called “The Fiction.” “He and the band played at a family friendly bar on campus at OSU and around town. He was really really talented,” Lattimer-Reeder added.
But it was in art that he really shined.
“He liked pencil drawings and drawing faces the most. He loved doing portraits. I guess he got that from me, I’m the same way,” she said. “I saw the talent early on. He didn’t believe me. I volunteered and taught art in the schools because there wasn’t art at the lower levels and I kept telling him how talented he was. He would always say, ‘But you’re my mom.’”
She said it took a compliment from a teacher to set him straight.
“After his first day at Tolles, he came home and said, “‘I must be pretty good because Mr. Knore said I was.’ I’ve never forgotten that,” Lattimer-Reeder said.
Harris agreed with Kurt’s level of talent.
“When you look at Kurt’s pencil sketches, people would say, ‘My God, what a talent.’ And then to imagine him doing that on marble?” he said about his etchings on monuments that can be seen around the Madison County and central Ohio area.
Making it ‘pop’
Harris said he saw a lot of talent in Kurt.
“I thought last year that doing the mural might help him. Raise him up. It was a testament to his talent and possibly get him more work,” Harris said. “After he passed away, I thought that as far as I was concerned, it was done. I said to Kim that anything she wanted to finish, obviously go for it. I was pleased with it then, and now I am overjoyed with what they have done.”
Reeder enlisted fellow artist and Kurt’s friend Alex Gueth of Underground Designs to do a lot of the finishing work. Also working on the mural were Sandy Fox, president of the London Visual Arts Guild and Guild member Lynn Daily.
“Kurt had most of it done. There was just some fine-tuning, the ‘pop’ — he wanted to make the mural pop and I figured Alex would know what Kurt wanted,” she said.
She was asked if she found it difficult emotionally to finish up the mural of her late son. “It was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I mean, there were days…” she said. But there was the connection between her and her late son — art.
“Finishing the mural and the art contest; it remembers Kurt and keeps him in mind. It is hard working on the mural in some ways. But when I am doing art, especially working on his art and getting ready for the show, it’s like that was such a part of him. It is like I am connecting with him. That is when I feel closest to him, when I am involved in art,” she said.
Reeder remembers the pain of dealing with a loved one taking medication.
“When he passed away they had him on seven medications,” she said. “Two were antibiotics because he was getting over pneumonia, but five he was taking for more than eight years, and they say you shouldn’t be on those medications more than two years. His grandma said he had gone into a psychiatrist’s office and came out 10 minutes later with five prescriptions in his hand. How could a doctor know what he really needed after talking to him for just 10 minutes? It’s a shame.”
She said this drug issue has become very common in our society and our community. “He was supposed to have a social worker and a therapist, but he never had either one over the eight years.”
Aspiring Art Award
As a way to honor the memory of Kurt, his family is sponsoring a new art competition in his name for Madison County high school seniors.
The winner of the Kurt Lattimer Aspiring Artist Award will receive $1,000. “We didn’t like calling it a ‘memorial.’ We are hoping it will be an annual award,” she said.
Mick Harris agreed. “I don’t like ‘memorial’ award because he will never be gone as long as we keep him in our minds and hearts. We wanted to start some type of contest that would remember him and keep art in the minds of everyone in the community.”
Harris said he has talked to the high school art instructors at all four Madison County school districts, and they are on board and will get the information out to their students. Harris also pointed out that they want to include homeschooled students in this as well, along with Madison County students attending other schools.
“It’s not as much the amount as the recognition and opportunity. We have amazing talent coming out of the schools,” Harris pointed out.
The contest will be for art that would be hung and exhibited on a wall. The theme for the art competition is “What Do You Dream Of?”
Harris said they were kicking around a theme, and didn’t want one too narrow. “So we looked at the title of the mural — ‘London, Where Dreams Come True.’ We wanted to have the artists think about what their dreams are — what they are thinking about,” he said.
“We are getting the applications together now, to give to the art teachers. It will be the opportunity to display their art, to get their name out there and their talent on display,” Harris added.
Harris and Reeder are still working out the details of the competition. The deadline for the students to submit their work will be Jan. 10, and the art would then be turned over to the London Visual Arts Guild for judging.
“We are looking at the art being on display in February, with the winner announced either in February or March,” said Harris.
For more information about the contest, contact Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Kurt would want
The completion of the mural, the exhibition of his work and the art competition are all things that his mother believes are things her son would have wanted.
While putting the finishing touches on the mural, she reflected on her son and the work of art.
“He was going to finish it this spring after the cold weather had set in and stopped him. He told me, ‘Mom, I am going to make it pop.’ I wasn’t really sure what he meant by that, so I called Alex (fellow artist and friend Alex Gueth) to get a younger opinion. They have an idea of what he was talking about,” she said while brushing along the American flag.
Was the mural going the way she thought Kurt would have liked? “I think so,” she said. “It is what he wanted… it is popping. He had it basically done. We’ve put in 12 to 15 hours each working on the finishing touches.”
Looking over the long mural, Lattimer-Reeder commented that she thought it looked the way her son would have liked it.
“He would have been very proud.”
Reach General Manager/Editor Gary Brock at 937-556-5759.