VINCENNES, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Wednesday marked the end of a long road for Randall Hedden.
Hedden, an artist who grew up in Vincennes, painted a mural in his hometown back in 2005, on the Gimble Building, which was destroyed in a fire six years later.
Now, his art stands tall once again– this time, in one of the city’s most historic buildings.
Hedden was joined by dozens of community members in the Pantheon Theater as he unveiled a new mural that celebrates the legacy of Red Skelton in the community.
The work includes over 50 people– many of whom performed alongside Skelton or inside the Pantheon theater during the 20th century.
“That gives you the entire history of this stage that existed over 100 years ago. It’s still here. The orchestra pit is gone, the dressing rooms in the basement are mostly gone, there’s remnants of one, but there’s a lot of history that’s here,” Hedden said.
Hedden said the theater first contacted him back in April of 2022, and he spent much of the past year and a half doing research to see who to include.
“I had to go back in the archives,” he said. “hey gave me a flash drive with over 100 years worth of pictures of the Pantheon Theater playbills. I learned from playbills who was here.”
Helen Seirp, the director of strategic communications for the Pantheon, was the one who reached out to Hedden because she was familiar with his previous work.
She said she was overcome with emotion as they hosted the celebration.
“I am so overwhelmed,” Seirp said. “Randall’s art exceeded my expectations, he and I have been on about a 20 year journey when he did the first mural in Vincennes on the old Gimble building that eventually burned down, so we’ve been looking for the right place to recreate a mural that would mean a lot to a lot of people.”
Many on hand took time several minutes after the work was unveiled to look at the details and take photos. Some of those in attendance were also instrumental in making the mural a reality, according to Hedden.
“We were running into a money issue,” he said. “They were trying to get grants but the grant was I had to be an Indiana artist. I lived in Indiana for 33 years, but I haven’t been here for 38 years. That didn’t work out and I said, ‘Why don’t we just put notable people that want to be in the mural, charge them money, and they can pay to have their face in the mural.”
That helped cover some of the estimated $40,000 costs, and Lothian Skelton, Red’s wife, also donated $25,000.
Seirp thanked her for her support throughout the process.
“It was so much fun. Lothian is such a true advocate of Knox County with the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center, and the museum, we have so much of his history here and she’s so welcoming to all of us, and she comes back and participates from California, it’s just a joy to be with her,” she said.
And after such a long journey to get here, Seirp said she hopes the artwork makes a lasting impact in the community.
“[Red] was such a great performer and brought so much laughter to so many homes,” she said so we wanted to take that legacy and bring it back to the Pantheon.”