Oil painting depicts Shelby County

Published 8:42 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009

As you enter the Shelby County Museum and Archives in Columbiana from the side entrance, the first thing you see is a huge oil painting of Shelby County.

It is an intriguing piece of art.

The more you look at it, the more you see major highlights, as well as hidden treasures of our county.

In 1981, Janice Falkner and Katie Robertson were given the task of selecting an artist to provide a major piece of artwork for the Shelby Baptist Medical Center Emergency Room. After months of searching, they commissioned Miriam Fowler, a local artist and historian.

After being instrumental in founding the Shelby County Museum and Archives, Fowler served from 1978-1979 as president. Through her love of the county and plain hard work with other historical society members, many of Shelby County’s treasured places have been placed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

Therefore, when she was asked by Janice and Katie to create something special representing the county, she knew the subject well. After several months of planning and three months of painting, Fowler can up with the treasure that now makes its home at the museum.

She chose a large canvas and drew the shape of the county in yellow gold as the background of her work. On it she painted historic sites, as well as new industry.

The boundaries had the Cahaba River on the left and the Coosa River on the right. As you reflect on the painting, you see Falkner School and Church in Vandiver, built in 1850; the Wallace Home of Harpersville, one of the oldest homes in Shelby County; and Four Mile Church, built in 1825. All of these places Fowler helped place on the Alabama Historic Register.

Riverchase, Inverness Towers and the Gaston Steam plant all reflect the future of the county. In the heart is the Shelby Baptist Medical Center; further south are the Saginaw Lime plant and the Shelby County Airport. The University of Montevallo is shown with Reynolds Hall built in 1851 and Cowart Drugs Store represents Calera.

The more you look, the more you see another landmark lovingly chosen and painted by talented hands.

In 1981, the painting was moved from Shelby Baptist Hospital as a gift to the museum. Richard and Linda Cook stretched the canvas and made a beautiful new frame, which they donated for the painting to be displayed in its new home.