Downtown-goers may have noticed a new welcome sign of sorts near the square’s southwest entrance.

That’d be McKinney’s first major public art mural.

Local artist Misty Oliver-Foster, a mural creator by trade, finished the 39-foot-wide symbolic piece late last month. Two months of painting followed nearly three years of planning.

“I wanted it to be a celebration of McKinney,” Oliver-Foster said of the Art Nouveau-style work that highlights the city’s cotton industry along with fine dining and entertainment.

The mural stretches across Cadillac Pizza Pub’s south-side maroon brick wall at 112 S. Kentucky St. Featured on it are native wildflowers like the Indian Paintbrush and Texas Wine Cup that represent fine arts and music, among other historic district aspects.

Merchants and frequent downtown visitors saw it take shape in recent weeks. Oliver-Foster, degreed in art and art history before teaching it at area schools, spent two to six days a week at the wall. Some days would be for four hours, others for 10.

Spring rains pushed her patience – and that of many others – as the $15,000 project slowly materialized. The McKinney Arts Commission (MAC) paid for half, matched by private donors, through the city’s mandated public art funding formula.

The commission’s annual budget sits at around $185,000, but most of that goes toward grants for local arts groups and nonprofits.

Each public art piece relies on a 50/50 match in private donations, which Janay Tieken, city liaison to the MAC, said is often a “really limiting factor.”

For the mural, location seemed the biggest hindrance. Commission members looked at 10 different downtown sites, but many were too small, their owners didn’t want it, or the mural would be blocked.

Earlier this year, the MAC nearly shifted from the planned Cadillac Pizza location to a wall next to the Chamber of Commerce building off Virginia Street. Minor wall repairs at Cadillac facilitated its return.

“It seems to have gotten folks excited about public art,” Tieken said of the mural, noting how the MAC has “absolutely” received other interest in murals elsewhere.

Oliver-Foster, who started a mural-making business in 2004, is glad to have done the first. She’s done murals at Frisco ISD schools and residences. This was her biggest and first one done outdoors in front of what she calls a “study audience.”

Her proudest moment came the day she finished and a family asked her to take their picture in front of the mural.

And she’s shown her artwork at downtown studios and during the square’s Arts in Bloom festival. “It’s an area I’m drawn to,” she said.

The city’s public art master plan has pieces dotted around McKinney to draw residents and visitors all over. Alleyways and other pass-thru areas are identified as ideal spots for murals and other works.

For now, the premier example is a broad, beautifully flowing welcome: See a painting, eat some pizza and peruse the heart of McKinney.