Jane Mudd

The “mural” of the story: retired longtime WWU Art professor has artwork permanently displayed at Columbia, Missouri Airport

For a professor lucky enough to teach at one university for 22 years, the pay-off is generations of students who learned from you, appreciated your guidance and took what you taught them out into the world and a successful professional career.

Jane Mudd, part of the Art faculty at William Woods University from 1997-2019, will certainly always have that.

“I miss my engaging, enthusiastic students the most,” said Mudd, looking back on her days at WWU. “Every teacher knows no greater reward than to see their students graduate with new-found knowledge, skills and an outlook on the world, and to know that they had something to do with it.”

But now, there is an additional, permanent legacy to her career creating Art. When the Columbia, Missouri Regional Airport officially opened its new terminal on October 26, 2022 following a major expansion, the massive mural depicting the Missouri River that adorned one of the prominent walls of the new space was commissioned by none other than Jane Mudd.

Jane Mudd

“There was a call for artists to apply and submit qualifications (for painting the mural in the new terminal), and I have been painting plein air landscapes since the 1970’s, having painted the Missouri River hundreds of times,” said Mudd. “So I thought I should give it a go and applied.”

When Columbia city officials were planning the new terminal, there was a desire to have artwork that would reflect area landmarks and be welcoming in some way to travelers. Mudd, who about 15 years ago painted a large outdoor mural called “A Slice of Callaway County” that is still on display in downtown Fulton, Missouri, thought she might be a strong candidate. That and her years of experience depicting the Missouri River, which is the most prominent landmark that air travelers see when flying into Columbia, led to her landing the coveted assignment.

“I was thrilled to be awarded the commission,” she said. “It was intense and challenging at times, but also fun and rewarding.”

For the 17 by 10 square foot oil painted mural, Mudd elected to feature several local landmarks from the area, including not only the mighty river itself, but also interesting details like the Katy Trail, the top of the distant State Capitol dome in Jefferson City on the horizon, and barges in the river. She added such touches as agriculture, wild flowers, the river’s wetlands and the Missouri 340 Race to symbolize the diversity of the area. Mudd’s intense detail and craftsmanship, hallmarks of the professional artisan she is, led to a project that took three and a half weeks to finish.

With some helpful advice from an old William Woods colleague along the way.

“I asked my old mentor Paul Clervi (retired WWU Art Department Chair) to look at the original image before I submitted it, and he made some very good suggestions,” she said. “I ended up making some major changes for the better right before the design was due! Thanks, Paul!”

The finished product is an idyllic landscape that reflects what those flying into Columbia see from their airplane seats as they descend into mid-Missouri.

“I have been fortunate in my career to have commissions and projects to work on and opportunities to travel,” said Mudd, who continues to paint and work at Orr Street Studios in Columbia and at her home outside Fulton. “All new public building projects must have art, and I was excited and honored to be part of this one.”

So yes, Jane Mudd’s impact will live on for many years through the William Woods students she taught and mentored for more than two decades. But someday when even the memories of those young artists have long since faded away, her talented influence will still be with us.

By a legacy that is as significant as a mural dominating an airport terminal wall, one that will be appreciated by generations to come.