Art As Liberation

An interview with muralist Megan Wagler

Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Z. Gasa

For Megan Wagler, out of great hardship comes great creativity and even greater art. Such is her story as a muralist. A middle child raised in a large and less fortunate family, Wagler had little else to do as a child other than play outside, watch Saturday morning cartoons, and doodle. It’s this environment that has now created a professional artist who not only wishes to create accessible art for the masses, but has hopes to change the Springfield art scene forever. Wagler has big plans for the Queen City.

Speaking with Wagler is Jeremy Lux for the latest episode of the Life in Motion podcast, where they discuss creativity, Wagler’s transition from corporate America to the art world, and why art belongs out in the open and not locked away in a gallery somewhere.

“I feel like my creativity started really early because we had to be really creative with how we spent our time,” Wagler says regarding her childhood.

A middle child, she always felt compelled to find her own identity.

Meg Wagler Illustration Springfield Missouri

“I will always resonate with middle children,” she says, “The older sibling is always the athlete, the younger is the scientist or something…For me, it was cartoons.”

Wagler recalls waking up every Saturday to watch Scooby Doo. The classic cartoon compelled her to pursue animation. As a child, she would make flipbooks constantly. Wagler’s passion for art would only grow from there

“So it sounds like Scooby-Doo really contributed to your passion. Is that fair to say?” asks Lux.

“Oh, yeah,” Wagler nods, “Blessings be to Scooby Doo.”

Meg Wagler Illustration Springfield Missouri

Wagler would later complete her art degree in college where she also met her husband, an illustrator with a BFA in graphic design.

Before Wagler knew it, her life was starting before her eyes. Within the two years since she graduated she had gotten married, had a child, and became creative director at BKD LLP in Springfield. For the first time, Wagler could feel her creative spirit chafe against the rigidness of the corporate structure.

“I remember walking into the interview and feeling so out of place. But it was just that societal nagging of ‘Oh this is probably the responsible choice.’ So I took the job and ended up staying for four or five years,” she says.

Though Wagler doesn’t have any regrets with her time with the company, she certainly recognizes the limitations the corporate world can have on art, especially when commodified for marketing.

Meg Wagler Illustration St George's Donuts Springfield Missouri

“I think a large portion of my animosity with my life choices was the question, ‘Why was I working at an accounting firm?’ I just knew that it wasn’t the right space for me,” she admits.

Wagler would leave BKD for another position that granted her more creative freedom, but once again, she got that stifling itch for more. When she turned 30, Wagler got what she describes as part “existential pondering,” part “midlife crisis” that caused her to gain a new perspective on life. After some thinking, Wagler decided that year she was going to paint a mural.

After apprenticing with a local muralist, what Wagler felt was nothing short of relief.

“I immediately thought, ‘Oh, this is it.’ This is what I should be doing, you know? Everything just clicked,” she says, “It was exhilarating, rewarding, therapeutic; all the things that I was seeking and wasn’t able to articulate.”

Meg Wagler Ozark Greenways "The Future Is Bright" Illustration 417 Magazine Feature Springfield Missouri

Since then, Wagler has completed several installations including a mural on the Ozark Greenways trail. Occasionally she’ll even find people posing with her work on Instagram, a gratifying feeling that she says brings her even closer to her community.

“Painting on location is so rewarding to me because you get to see people’s responses to your work. So at the Boys and Girls Club, these kids are walking and they’re just so impressed. You’re like the coolest person in the room. They were just so excited and interested by the mural,” she shares.

Such is the essence of Wagler’s work as a whole; a window into human connection and experience. Mural painting certainly has the unique opportunity of touching an infinite amount of people, and Wagler wields that power with great care and intent.

“I think there are different forms of art, but for me, what matters the most is that it's able to be experienced by everyone; that you aren't contributing to class divides by putting walls around your art,” she explains, “I think that that's where public art, mural art and street art really resonates with me; you're removing the walls and the boundaries between people and culture.”

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You can check out Megan Wagler’s art on Instagram and Facebook, as well as her website www.megwagler.com. To hear the full story, including more on Meg’s creative process, her plans for a Springfield mural fest, as well as how to cultivate a local art scene, check out the Life in Motion podcast with Jeremy Lux on Apple Podcast and Spotify.
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