Talented husband and wife team, Amber and Adam Heilman, recently completed a set of paintings at Interurban, inspired by historical photographs of Chickasha.
These paintings—which resemble black and white photographs—were added to raw wood panels that surround the restaurant's patio during the winter months. They used a "wash" technique, which adds to the photographic quality of the paintings.
“We wanted to show the wood grain through it” Adam said.
“And that’s why we wanted to use this technique," Amber said. "Because it’s natural wood, and I thought why not incorporate the wood with the paintings to give it an old time feel."
There are 12 paintings in total, each depicting a scene from Chickasha's history. Many of these depictions are recognizable today, such as the Festival of Light in Shannon Springs Park, the Washita Theatre and the Petroleum Building on Chickasha Ave.
Other paintings invite the viewer to see Chickasha through a historic lens. One painting shows a group of pilots at Chickasha's Flight School in the 1940s, Chickasha's first fire truck and a Chickasha Ice Company wagon. They even included Chickasha's first business, a tented "Cowboy Saloon."
Two adjacent panels transport the viewer back to the Rock Island Depot in the early 1900s. To the left of an early century train, train passengers arrive at and/or leave the station.
“If you look at it, each character has a different story," Amber said.
The Heilmans were contacted by Josh Woods, Co-owner and Manager Interurban of Chickasha, about creating murals for the panels. Woods was familiar with their artwork in the community. They also had a connection from the Rock Island Arts Festival. In 2019, Woods helped organize the Food Truck Championship alongside the arts festival.
Almost as impressive as the paintings themselves is the timeframe in which the artists completed the project. Both art teachers, Amber and Adam set aside a week during the winter break to paint the panels. This involved 10 to 12-hour-days as restaurant patrons curiously peeked through the window.
“It was fun painting in here and turning around and seeing people looking in," Adam said.
If you ask either artist which panel is their favorite, both will choose a painting by their spouse.
“I just have fun painting with my wife," Adam said.
In addition to art, the couple share a passion for teaching. Amber teaches art at Rush Springs High School and Adam teaches art at Anadarko Middle School.
Amber said one of her missions as a teacher is to help students discover what they like. She's taken her class to art walks in Norman and Oklahoma City. Recently, she and 14 of her art students traveled to Tulsa for three days. The student art club raised the funds.
Adam said he wants to have a positive impact on his middle school students.
“I just want to make sure that kids see a positive adult, male figure and that they become human at some point," he said.
Adam and Amber met at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, both art majors, in 1999. They have been doing community art projects for about a decade.
Both have been heavily involved in the Chickasha Area Arts Council, the Rock Island Arts Festival, the Festival of Light, Artscope in Chickasha as well as Arts Explosion, a summer arts camp in Duncan.
They have contributed to painting and/or repainting numerous landmarks around Chickasha including the water tower by the Chickasha High School football field.
“That was fun,” Amber said. “I made PB&J’s and we sat up there 20 feet, 30 feet up in air watched the sun set and had dinner.”
Other projects include helping repaint the buffalo mural at First National Bank, the flower mural on the side of Gina Zhidov Photography, window painting and sometimes helping paint the Christmas hay bales on Grand Ave.
They also painted a mural at the Canadian River Brewing Co. which shows the brewing process.
The Heilmans have also helped the Chickasha Community Theatre bring their productions to life by painting backdrops and costume design.
They say their second home is at the 7th Street Arts Connection building, where the Chickasha Area Arts Council holds many events. Last year, the Heilmans debuted a family art show which also featured the artwork of their children—Cyrus and Briana Heilman.
“We do it together and that’s what’s cool," Amber said.