Emily Frankoski

Emily Frankoski had no intention of living or working in her hometown of Joplin. Then the storm struck.

“It really changed my trajectory,” said Frankoski, who graduated from St. Louis University on May 21, 2011, one day before the tornado.

Her plan, as a Spanish and psychology double major, was to search for jobs in cities such as St. Louis or Minneapolis. She arrived home on the day the tornado gutted the city. Her family and home were out of the tornado’s path.

What has since emerged from the rubble is a burgeoning arts scene, with more than 20 pieces of public art dotting the city since the storm. Frankoski is community arts director of the nonprofit Connect2Culture.

“I think it’s become something that’s been quite healing,” said Frankoski, 27.

Perhaps most emblematic is a mural at 15th and Main streets called “The Butterfly Effect: Dreams Take Flight.” Created later in 2011, it’s the work of Lawrence muralist Dave Loewenstein. He used ideas put forth by a community design team and some 300 volunteers, including children who created drawings.

The center of the mural depicts effects of the storm — lightning, gnarled trees, an ambulance — but not the tornado itself. Some thought the mural should include no images reminiscent of the tornado.

The mural then moves toward rebirth, to butterflies, seen in abundance in the months after the storm. At the far end, a phoenix soars from ashes.

Frankoski said some kind of community mural had been planned even before the storm. But after the tornado wrecked the city and so many lives, some wondered whether the plan should proceed.

“The thought was that it might not be appropriate for that time,” Frankoski said. “Maybe it needed to be pushed off. But the community was adamant about having that experience within the recovery. It really did help with recovery, with the spirit of the people.”

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