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Fort Scott artist uses his craft to beat addiction

 

FORT SCOTT, Ks. – What started as an attempt to clean up graffiti in Fort Scott’s Gunn Park has turned into something beautiful.

“There was some derogatory graffiti down there. Somebody started covering it up. I messaged Stephen saying, ‘hey, would you like to cover this up?’ Stephen informed me that he was the one already covering it up under the cover of darkness, and if he had some permission he could get it done a lot quicker. That’s kind of how it started,” said Fort Scott Mayor Josh Jones.

Mayor Jones is talking about his friend and local artist Stephen Toal who partnered with the city to create a beautiful butterfly and flower mural in an area of Gunn Park that had been defaced.

The mural is a hit with park goers but it’s also done a lot for the artist himself.

“I’m in recovery. I’ve got three years clean. I chose art as a positive outlet instead of partying and drinking,” said Stephen Toal.

Stephen says focusing his energy on something he’s passionate about was instrumental in changing his life and encourages those struggling with addiction to try a similar route.

“As an addict, you can turn that into a positive if you just channel it into something positive like art instead of drugs and alcohol. If you take that same mentality and put it towards art, you can go places,” said Stephen.

And Stephen is going places with his hometown of Fort Scott. He’s also completed multiple murals in the city’s Riverfront Park including one of Fort Scott hero Gordon Parks.

Not only is the art a hit with locals, the murals are also turning heads among visitors.

“You drive down the riverfront and you see people coming in that are tourists, stopping and taking pictures in front of them. They’ve been an attraction for locals and the tourists who come to town,” said Mayor Jones.

And that’s who Stephen has in mind with his latest work in progress. He’s currently painting angel wings which are popular for picture taking at a Gunn Park rest area, and he doesn’t plan on stopping there.

If you’d like to learn more about Stephen Toal’s art and photography, check out his professional Facebook page by click here.

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