By Shaina Johnson // Contributing Writer
When Randy L. Purcell, Army veteran and alumni of MTSU, was asked to paint a mural in the Veterans and Military Family Center, he was honored to do so.
Purcell, originally from Paducah, Kentucky, moved to Nashville in 2000. At age 37, he became an art student at MTSU studying painting and sculpting. Before coming to the university, Purcell thought he wanted to design and build furniture, but discovered a hidden passion in painting. He graduated with a BFA in Fine Arts in 2009.
A lean man with short brown hair and a friendly smile, Purcell worked mostly in silence, occasionally stepping away from the mural to compare his work with a scaled sketch of the eagle he drew in his studio.
As an artist for hire, Purcell said he’s done three or four murals, the largest at a community center in the Donelson-Hermitage area.
The mural he’s creating in the Veterans Center begins on a wall near the entrance and stretches for the length of the hallway. Curvy red and white stripes fill the bottom half of the painting, accentuated by large blue and white five-pointed-stars. In the middle of the hallway, the stars and bars yield to a giant eagle, talons poised to strike.
“The stars and stripes are just regular house paint. Now, as far as the eagle goes, I’m using acrylics because it’s a little more detailed,” said Purcell. He started painting the stars and stripes on March 14, and finished them on March 19, working through the weekend.
“The eagle represents the soldiers coming through that transition from military service back into the civilian world,” said Purcell. He plans on completing the eagle in another day and a few more days to finish up completely.
For Purcell, the project is personal because he is a veteran, too, having served in Desert Storm as a member of an Army Reserves mobile Army surgical hospital unit.
A painting professor here at MTSU contacted Hilary Miller, director of the Veterans center, because the center had been interested in a mural. Through three different meetings Miller and Purcell came up with a proposal that they both liked the most. Purcell said the center wanted a mural that was welcoming, familiar, and would not become dated as time progresses.
“When I got the offer to come to the Veteran Center, being a veteran, being an alumni of MTSU it just seemed like a perfect fit,” he said.