Don’t worry, the giant frog balancing a teetering stack of mugs and dishes on Spring Street isn’t going to drop them.
The big, green frog on the side of Derailed Coffee Bar & Cafe is the creation of two painters who are traveling Route 66 to paint murals ahead of its centennial anniversary in 2026. Driving from Chicago to Springfield, Douglas Rouse and Michael Wallace made a detour to Boonville to paint last week.
Derailed owner Gwin Coleman and Rouse have been friends for about 15 years, since they met in Colorado Springs, where they worked on several art projects together, she said. Even before she left Colorado, Rouse had been talking about painting a mural for her in Boonville.
Rouse and Wallace came up with a couple of concepts for the mural, and Coleman liked the frog the best, she said. She was looking for something fun and creative that made the store stand out. So far, it’s worked, as people have been coming in asking about the giant frog, she said.
Coleman went to high school in New Franklin, before going to college in Indiana and moving to Colorado, where she worked as a graphic designer, she said. Wanting to be closer to her sister in Columbia and to get out of the increasingly crowded Denver, Coleman moved to Boonville.
She’s always liked to cook, and saw opportunity in a vacant building on Spring Street, at the Katy Trail depot. The building had been vacant for about two years, and Coleman put a lot of love and work into cleaning it up before opening Derailed Coffee Bar & Cafe in it, she said.
Coleman said she saw a niche market for her shop, which sells coffee and espresso drinks, and food that is almost all made from scratch, she said. She offers lighter and healthier options like a granola bowl with greek yogurt and granola she made herself with oats, almonds and honey, she said. Quiches are one of the most popular items, she said. She also makes paninis with homemade sauces, like a caprese with homemade pesto and a pulled pork sandwich with meat smoked by Buerky’s BBQ and a homemade Carolina-style barbecue sauce, she said.
This is Wallace and Rouse’s first run down Route 66 as a part of the centennial project. It’s a “discovery tour,” to make contacts with people who are interested in having a mural painted, Rouse said. Next year, they’ll make another run, paint some murals and meet more people along the way, and they plan to repeat that for several years before 2026, he said.
Rouse and Wallace are also working on a project called Murals Across America, where they paint at least one mural in every U.S. state. Rouse has painted murals in Massachusetts, Texas, Colorado, and now Missouri. Next up on that project is a mural in Cheyenne, Wyoming, later this year, he said.
“It started out of, I want to see every state,” Rouse said. “So, we’ll do a mural in every state, it’ll be a good way to see it.”
The Derailed mural didn’t take long for them to put up. They got to Boonville on Oct. 1, came up with the idea, and finished most of the mural that night, using just a small flashlight to paint in the dark.
“When you mix paint every day of your life, you know what it’s going to look like in the daylight,” Wallace said. “You just close your eyes, and it’s like riding a bike.”
The two painters have known each other for several years, and have worked together, but they mainly do their own things, Wallace said. He paints in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, during the winter, and comes back to the U.S. in the summer, he said. Rouse is based in Colorado Springs, and paints public murals, and murals in museums, including three-dimensional, interactive murals at the Scottsdale, Arizona, Museum of the West and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.
The experienced painters don’t need much of a push to come up with a concept for their murals. Most people have some idea of what they want, and all the painters really need is one word, and they’ll take it from there, Rouse said.
“You sense them, you sense who they are, you sense the space,” Wallace said. “From there, it starts coming into your head. You ask yourself, ‘What would be cool?’”
Murals on buildings are a fun challenge because they have to figure out how to make the best use of the available space. On Derailed, they were working around a staircase, a door and a window. From experience, they can figure out pretty quickly how they can make a space work.
It’s all about knowing how positive and negative spaces interact with each other, Wallace said. On the Derailed mural, there’s just enough space between the frog’s leg and the pile of cups, he said. The placement of the frog’s knee is close to the window, but still allows the window to stand on its own, and the center of it’s eyeball is the center of the space between the edge of the window and the door, he said.
“It’s like how we know something’s crooked, something in our head tells us,” Wallace said. “It’s the same way with art, you see where lines or shapes don’t work, or where they feel good.”