by Larry Austin
Terry Klaaren lived on Grand Island for only three years, but his time here was an integral part of his life.
A mural artist for the last 40 years, Klaaren has dedicated his time recently to helping the Grand Island Mural Project that is turning the back of the Grand Island Plaza into a work of art.
On Oct. 13, the giant mural, part of which is pictured above, will be "unveiled" at the Taste of Grand Island Fall Fest.
Klaaren, a 1969 graduate of Grand Island High School, said he came to town this summer to see family, and while here visited with Lyn Laman, his teacher and mentor from Grand Island High School, who put him in touch with Corey McGowan, the coordinator of the mural project and its associated festival. Klaaren said he decided to help the cause "since this is my alma mater high school," but also because he wants to repay the Island.
Klaaren said he moved here in 1967 and graduated in 1969, and in that short time fell in love with both art and his future wife. "The high school art program was so great that it gave me a career, from nothing to a career," Klaaren said, explaining that it was Laman who told him to go to college, take some art classes, and figure out what to do with his life.
"That's exactly what happened," he said. "I had no college aspirations whatsoever until she directed me."
"So, I came to Grand Island and I got me a wife and a career," Klaaren said. "I kind of owe the Island."