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Restoring a Tom Talbot Mural

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 9:54 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Early art work of a Broken Bow native is now on display at the Custer County Museum. It turns out, he’s an internationally-known artist.

Tom Talbot is a native son of Broken Bow. He was born in 1936. “This mural was in the Federal Land Bank,” Broken Bow resident Paul Loomer said. “He painted it and finished it in 1964. The art teacher in Arnold, Julie Moore, rescued it when they remodeled the land bank. She put in her classroom for probably 20 years.”

Loomer says when Moore was getting ready to retire from teaching, local volunteers decided the mural should be saved and displayed at the Custer County Museum. Because of its size, they had to figure out a way to mount it. “Clay Moore was the industrial arts teacher in Arnold, and Julie is his wife,” Loomer said. “Clay, being a fantastic woodworker, made a cabinet for us to display it.” Local students from the Broken Bow high school shop class helped install it. Work was also done to restore the painting itself. “There was a lot of damage done to it, because it’s done on drywall,” Loomer said. “When they cut it out of the wall of the old Federal Land Bank, the nails popped through, and of course, it got marred up and there were hammer claw marks on it.”

That’s where local rancher and artist Laron McGinn brought his talents to bear. He knew Tom Talbot personally. “He has been a life-long mentor, and is still probably the largest influence on my life,” McGinn said. McGinn says Talbot described himself as an ‘impressonistic realist’. “Tom was a master with color,” he said. “Tom was a master at manipulating with his brushwork what he wanted to say.” McGinn was asked to help restore the painting, because of his close relationship with Tom Talbot. “I was nervous that I might not do it justice,” he said. “Hopefully after people see it now, after the work that we did in repairing this and preserving it, people will not notice any part of it that was touched up.”

Now that the mural is hanging on the wall, visitors are learning about the significance of Tom Talbot. He’s a hometown boy that trained at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. “When he was in high school, his parents owned the Arrow Hotel, and he did a lot of mural paintings on the wall when he was in high school,” Loomer said. One painting is still visible in the old “cigar room” of the Arrow Hotel. Tom Talbot passed away in 2009. But the mural in the museum may well generate new interest in his work. “It’s history coming back home,” museum curator Tammy Hendrickson said. “Our mission here is to preserve history for the future to enjoy. This is definitely a big piece of that.”

“I think the mural in the museum really relates to this part of the country,” Loomer said. “The title of it is ‘Their Life was the Land and the Land was Good’. That is so true with this area, you know, and the people who came out this way. There wasn’t a lot here except the land at that time.”

“The open skies, the majestic clouds, every season, everything that Tom saw was a painting opportunity,” McGinn said. Now you have the opportunity to experience the work of Tom Talbot, right in his own hometown.

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