ST. LOUIS – The mural “Black Americans In Flight” is celebrating 30 years since it was hung up and dedicated at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.
Standing 8-feet high and 51-feet long, the mural hangs proudly in Terminal 1.
Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebrugge said in 1986, a committee called CAMP was tasked with coming up with a unique piece of art for a large space at the airport. They decided to commission a piece on the Tuskegee Airmen and the role they played in aviation.
The group hired local artist Spencer Taylor, who then enlisted the help of Solomon Thurman for the project.
Thurman, born and raised in St. Louis, had been interested in aviation from a young age. He said he used to bring a scrapbook of the Tuskegee Airmen to show and tell in elementary school.
Then in his 30s, Thurman’s interest in aviation collided with his love and excellence in art. For Thurman, painting the mural felt like he was fulfilling his destiny.
Originally, the mural was going to feature just three or four people, but Thurman said there were 22 Tuskegee Airmen from St. Louis who flew in World War II. In Thurman’s mind, three or four was not adequate.
Instead, the mural features 75 portraits, 72 of them African Americans, and Thurman said that’s still just a small piece of the story.
The mural took Taylor and Thurman two years to finish and Thurman said there are a few things about it that you may have missed the first time you looked.
In their center part there are P51 Mustangs and when you look at them from the left side of the mural, it looks like they are flying towards each other. However, as you move to the right side of the mural, you see the aircrafts pivot and move in different directions. It like an optical allusion said Thurman.
Here is more of the secrets Thurman shared: