original pony mural painting crew

Gothenburg High School art students helped paint the original Pony Express riders mural downtown in the spring of 1982. (Photo courtesy former GHS art teacher Cindy Cronn)

A few weeks ago, the Gothenburg Chamber Tourism Committee was approached by a business owner with plans to repaint his downtown building. And while a building owner would not need to seek permission from the local Chamber to paint his property, this particular building is unique. While serving as the location of business offices and a private residence, the building also displays the town’s iconic “rainbow ponies” mural.

According to Chamber Executive Director Deb Egenberger, one of the main questions the Tourism Committee felt needed to be asked was, “How important is the mural to this community?”

“They didn’t want to pledge money and open a fundraising campaign for a project that maybe didn’t have as much interest in the community as it has with tourism committee members,” Egenberger said.

Judging by the responses from the public within the past week, that question has been answered - it is very important.

The mural dates back to the spring of 1982, when then GHS art teacher Cindy Cronn and her art students became involved with the painting. Cronn, who taught at GPS from 1980-1997, and 18 high schoolers assisted Nebraska artist Robin Smith, who designed the mural. A Gothenburg newspaper article from September 1982 described the mural as “24 giant Pony Express riders that melt away in rainbow shades…” Smith was in residence on the project for two weeks. “My students and I helped him paint it,” Cronn shared.

Cronn applied for and received a grant from the Nebraska Arts Council, and solicited funds from Gothenburg Public Schools and the Nebraska Community Improvement Program to match the $500 mini-grant.

The community immediately fell in love with the mural that covers the entire north wall of the large building at 9th Street and Lake Avenue. About 20 years ago the mural was repainted, and is due for refurbishing again. That is where the Tourism Committee became involved.

A local painting company of Gothenburg submitted and received the lowest bid of $15,500 to paint the entire building, of which $11,500 is the cost of the intricate painting of the mural that contains more than 20 different paint colors. Additionally, out of respect for the importance of the mural to the community, the painting company offered a reduced rate for the project. The remaining $4,000 of that bid is for the face and rear of the building, which will be the owner’s responsibility.

The Tourism Committee has agreed to contribute $5,000 to the mural painting if the remaining $7,500 can be raised by the community. The committee is now asking for the community’s help in acquiring those additional funds.

The Pony Express Community Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) organization, has set up a donation campaign webpage to provide easy, tax deductible donations to the project. That page can be found at: https://paypal.com/donate/?campaign_id=W3TFJB3ACDFZ6&source=url. For anyone who may want to avoid the processing fees of online giving, there is also now a designated savings account open at Flatwater Bank under the Pony Express Foundation’s umbrella.

All donations will go toward the $7,500 goal to restore the mural only. Two generations of Gothenburg residents have now enjoyed growing up with the rainbow ponies, and the community clearly has a soft spot for the mural.

“I love that you are hoping to preserve it,” Cronn shared.