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Artist used unusual medium

Staff writer

When customers walk into Olde Towne Restaurant in Hillsboro, they see a depiction of early Hillsboro with horse-drawn wagons in front of Olde Towne.

“When people walk in, they think it’s a painting,” owner Brenda McGinness said. “But when they get close, they see what it is.”

It is a mural made of carpet, made by the late J. Max Heinrichs Sr. for Hillsboro’s centennial celebration in 1984. McGinness found the mural in the basement of the building when she was preparing to re-open the restaurant, and decided to put it back on display.

Heinrichs installed carpet for many years, and when he moved to the insurance business, he used the murals as a way to work with his hands and express his creativity.

Heinrichs made many such murals of different scenes with assistance from his family — including wife JoAnn, son Max, and daughter-in-law Krista — and a Tabor College art professor. Heinrichs’ son, Hillsboro High School Principal Max Heinrichs, said he wasn’t sure how many were made.

“It was a lot,” Heinrichs said. “We were always doing that.”

Other pieces include a sunset scene hanging in the son’s basement, three at Emprise Bank in Hillsboro — representing Marion County, Hillsboro’s development, and the Great Seal of the State of Kansas — and a nativity scene at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church that survived a fire.

“When the church burned down, somehow that made it through,” Heinrichs said.

The elder Heinrichs also made several for Holiday Inn motels in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The largest of the murals was one for a Holidome in Texas. It was 80 feet long and 10 feet tall, and showed the history of the area from prehistory to the oil boom. That mural used about 1 million staples, Heinrichs said.

The younger Heinrichs said he doesn’t know of any other maker of carpet murals.

The process of making such murals was intensive. The elder Heinrichs and the professor would work together on a design, and professor would draw the design on paper over wood. Heinrichs and family would then cut pieces of carpet to fit the design and staple them to the wood backing.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle is what it is,” Heinrichs said. “He was pretty particular,” he said of his father.

The elder Heinrichs died of pancreatic cancer in 1994, and wasn’t able to make a mural that he wanted to make.

“He wanted to do the Lord’s Supper — a big one,” Heinrichs said.

If made, the mural would have been rotated among the local churches for the Lent and Easter seasons. Heinrichs said he hopes to one day complete the project in his father’s honor. Enough background work had been done before his father’s passing that they knew it would require 105 colors of carpet.

Last modified March 31, 2011

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