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MANSFIELD, La. - A group of volunteers have been active in recent months giving downtown Mansfield a makeover.

They are painting, mowing and decorating and one of the biggest accomplishments so far is the addition of a B-52 in the form of a mural that has the plane seemingly fly off of a vacant building.

"I can't believe somebody can actually sit up and draw something like that," said Anthony Young, a Mansfield resident who works across the street from the mural. "You know what I'm saying? That's a lot of work."

The mural located right at the intersection of Polk and Washington streets in Mansfield. So if you're taking highway 171, you can't miss it.

"A B-52 on a mural would be appropriate," said Bryan Norwood from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4586. "We thought that was correct because Barksdale is an important part of our community."

The mural also has the American flag, purple mountain majesty and symbols of all branches of the military.

Norwood says they funded the project, but a local group, branched from the DeSoto Chamber of Commerce, called Mansfield in Motion, came up with the idea.

Martha Sayers from the murals committee got in contact with an artist out of Los Angeles who happened to be a familiar face.

"I said 'I know the family!' So one call is all it took and Matthew was on board."

The artist, Matthew Yerby, is actually from DeSoto Parish. He's now a big time painter on the west coast. He says it took him 16 days to complete the mural.

"They told me that they had a big building that they wanted to do a B-52 bomber on there," Yerby said. "So, immediately that interest me. I always loved the big buildings."

Across the street, flowers are now blooming on another mural on The Flower Shop's building. The splashes of art and color are all part of a bigger plan to liven up a city that's seen better days. Last year, the city's economy took a big hit with the closure and downsizing of a half-dozen businesses. Mansfield in Motion has got a lot accomplished by removing overgrown brush and debris from empty lots, painting exteriors and replacing broken windows of vacant buildings.

"We are actively and aggressively working to enhance the first impression of our town," said Fran Norwood, Chairwoman of Mansfield in Motion.

And people around town are noticing that and the mural.

"I've definitely enjoyed coming into town everyday and seeing it progress," said Shelly Burnley, who works in Mansfield."

"Glad to see they were doing something like that," said DeSoto Parish resident, Paul Laffitte. "It's something nice for the town of Mansfield."

"And we needed something pretty on the wall," Young said. "It just was so naked!"

Matthew Yerby's free-handed mural was designed to bring patriotism to the city, but there is a connection between DeSoto Parish and Barksdale Air Force Base. In the 1940s, the government provided funding for the police jury to build the airport to be used as an auxiliary landing field for Barksdale.


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