Chip Lange of Cuba, MO was a young man with a mission, but he didn't know that he would end up in the murals that he helped bring to his community.
Viva Cuba members have told the “Chip Lange story” on many mural tours, and it draws a postive response from listeners. The appeal of the story arises from three aspects: 1. Chip’s age at the time, 2. The magnitude of his accomplishment, and 3. The situation of how he found himself to be the “soldier with the red band on his hat.”
When Chip was 15, he came to Viva Cuba, a beautification organization that commissioned the murals, to offer his help in making the planned Civil War murals a reality. He was interested for a couple of reasons. He had been a Civil War buff since he was about nine and was a re-enactor with the 1st MO Lt Artillery Company M, Turner Brigade. For a young man, he had amassed a broad knowledge of the Civil War through reading and family trips to Civil War battlegrounds. In other words, he knew his stuff.
Chip also wanted to use the mural for his Eagle Scout Project, which had to be completed before he was 16. He began compiling a notebook with the information about the The Battle of Pilot Knob that would be the basis for the mural panels. Chip made his proposal to Viva Cuba and to his Eagle Scout board. After some discussion, he was made part of the project, and it was approved by the Eagle Board.
Boy Scout Chip Lange develped into a formidable fundraiser to make these murals a reality.
Chip’s notebook continued to grow with mural-related activities as the project progressed. He, along with Viva Cuba members, researched artists, and he began raising money by conducting fundraisers and contacting donors. Viva Cuba had agreed to match his fundraising up to $15,000. Chip and Viva Cuba members worked on the various stages of the project. During his months of organizing and fundraising, Chip developed his presentation skills and became a formidable fundraiser.
When the organization tallied the fundraising, Chip had raised over $21,000 in donations and fundraisers. Viva Cuba contributed their $15,000, thus making the Civil War murals the most expensive and extensive to date. They would cover several buildings and transform Buchanan Street.
The murals transformed the look of Buchanan Street.
Artist Don Gray of California was hired to paint the murals, and it was arranged that he would stay in a garage apartment belonging to Chip’s parents Bill and Catherine Lange. Chip and Don Gray begam a friendship through emails prior to Don coming to Cuba, and it continued once Don was on-site and painting.
Toward the end of the mural painting, Show Me St. Louis’s videographer Jim Viehman of KSDK came to Cuba to film a segment about the murals. During the filming of the Civil War murals, Viehman interviewed Don Gray, Viva Cuba’s Jill Barnett, and Chip Lange. Chip tells the story about how he discovered that he was part of the mural this way:
I realized Don was painting me into the mural only after I was talking with the St. Louis network that was interviewing me on the day it was being completed. I noticed that there was one last blank spot on the wall and that it was a silhouette that I was sure he would be finishing briefly. When I was looking away, he had finished the painting and only after someone had commented on that mural did I turn around to see that I had just been painted into the mural as the last figure. Without a doubt, I was very surprised and the media caught that moment.
Today, the murals draw Route 66 travelers from around the world. Chip presented his Eagle Scout documentation of the mural project to his review board, and they had never seen anything like it. Chip is now an Eagle Scout.
Viva Cuba continues to maintain the murals. This summer Don Gray, who has moved to Oregon, visited Cuba and repaired some mural damage caused by moisture. While he was in Cuba, he once again stayed at the Lange’s garage apartment. Unfortunately, he was not able to visit with Chip for he was studying in London as an Accident & Emergency intern at the King’s College Hospital, a hospital with a prestigious background in academia.
Chip is now completing his senior year at Westminster College in Missouri and applying to graduate schools. He is reviewing Physician Assistant programs across the country. He is also planning a special research project that will involve his self-designed major of Biomedical Psychology. Besides some campus activities, Chip is in the Mixed Martial Arts Club, a firefighter for the Central Callaway Fire Protection District and an EMT at the Steeelville Ambulance District. And he is still a member of the Turner Brigade.
Viva Cuba members like to say that every mural has a story. This set of murals tells the story of The Battle of Pilot Knob. But they also tell the story of a young man who set a goal and contributed to his community in a way that will always be remembered.
The Leasburg panel of the Civil War Murals showcases young Chip Lange of Cuba.
Update: Go to here to see information on the Battle of Leasburg Reenactment on Saturday, Oct. 1st and Sunday, Oct. 2., 2011
Go here to see the Show Me St. Louis episode on the Cuba MO Murals website.