By Brian Robert “Cat” Taylor, MM, as told to Editor Gregory S. Kearse, 33° |
South Carolina artist, and professor Bro. Brian Robert “Cat” Taylor, with the help of students from his mural painting class, took an “empty wall” on an area lodge building and made it … revolutionary.
Freemasonry in South Carolina dates back to 1735, when Lord Weymouth, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England, issued a warrant establishing the office of Provincial Grand Master in the colony of South Carolina. The first Provincial Grand Master was John Hammerton, the receiver general of quitrents in the colony. In 1736 he organized the first Masonic lodge in the colony, Solomon’s Lodge Number One of Charleston, which became the mother lodge of Freemasonry in South Carolina. Freemasonry continued to spread, eventually covering all areas of the state. By 2003 there were 315 chartered lodges and 47,913 Freemasons under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of South Carolina, which is the descendant of the old Provincial Grand Lodge.
Freemasonry in the state went through a period of disunity after the Revolutionary War. In 1787 a second Grand Lodge was formed in South Carolina, the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons, which established many lodges, especially in the backcountry. The original Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, also known as the Moderns, was not strong enough at this point in time to do much about it. The Moderns had large numbers of Loyalists, and several lodges ceased to exist after many of their members were exiled or chose to leave the colony after the Revolutionary War. The two Grand Lodges argued over jurisdiction until 1817, when they merged to form the Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of South Carolina.
What goes around comes around. History is prologue. These clichés speak to the two men, Bros. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, who contributed greatly to the founding of America. They are both pillars of American history, as well as celebrated Master Masons. Bob “Cat” Taylor has chronicled and celebrated their amazing contributions in a unique and fabulous way. He and his students create murals. One in particular has fired the imagination of his students and Freemasons.
“As a Lecturer at Coastal Carolina University I have taught a Mural Painting class in some form every summer for the past six years. While it has been a great way to make a little extra money as a teacher in the summer, no other class is as stressful in the beginning and as rewarding in the end!”
All murals start with a bright-eyed arts professor full of grandiose ideas and sometimes end with a sunburnt, broken, and frazzled professor with a dream that has been compromised. No matter the outcome, in the eyes of the professor, the public usually stands in awe of the behemoth mural before them, the real reward comes from the attention that the students receive for a job well done.
“The mural, entitled Masters of the Revolution, was different than anything than I had done before. It all began with an empty wall calling me everyday, as I would meet my coach Alan Simeon for our biweekly catechism practice. One day as we finished up for the evening I slipped into the conversation, “You know this wall could really use a cool mural.” Unexpectedly he was super taken with the idea and word started to spread that art on a colossal scale was my thing. No one really took it too seriously, though, because I was an Entered Apprentice. Often an EA is ready to take on the world and then fizzles out. That would not be the case in my journey. I would soon meet Chris Kensel who would recognize my enthusiasm. Chris became master of the lodge, so the idea became a more tangible notion.”
In March, Taylor was raised as a new Master Mason.
“I was extremely excited to be given the opportunity to create a work of art that might reflect my passion for Masonry. This would not be quite as easy as it had been in the past. The lodge sits in a great limbo that is the county surrounded on all sides by the city. This would be the first of many hurtles as I would have to deal with a new set of officials or maybe both who had not seen my mural work. In any case, there would have to be an abnormal amount of extra care taken when designing and presenting the face of Freemasonry to the public. After doing some research into Masonic art for the mural, most of my findings turned up images that displayed a buffet of symbols and signs floating in a near random order. As someone who considers himself primarily a figurative artist, this style of design was not appealing. In order to comfort myself with the project I decided to work from the heart in my own style. I thought what historical figures define masonry in both the eyes of Masons as well as held in high regards by the public at large. Two historical figures came to mind immediately, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. The city soon informed us that due to their regulations, the square and compass along with the letter G was considered signage by the city because they consider these symbols to be The Freemason’s logo! After a lengthy explanation that we neither sell anything nor advertise membership we realized that we were just banging our heads against the wall. To both Tom Kronenwetter (our lodge secretary) and myself, this would pose a major conundrum. What else says Masonry more than these three symbols? He and I went back and forth posing different ideas to create a well-rounded image for the center of the mural. In the end and after many redesigns it was brought to a vote of the craft and at the will of the Worshipful Master, that the lodge would endure an annexation from the county to the city and afford a sign cost that would allow us to present the mural in all the glory that it deserved. After what seemed like the Geneva Convention between the university, the city, and the lodge, with me as the intermediary, an agreement was struck to form a class that would create the mural.
Above: Bros. George Washington & Benjamin Franklin are the two “revolutionary” Masons featured in Bro. Taylor’s mural, The Masters of the Revolution, located on the side of Grand Strand Lodge No. 392 in North Myrtle Beach, SC.(Photography: Photography: Bro. Brian Robert “Cat” Taylor, MM)
“The students were excited to begin, and after some short instruction and a couple of hands-on demonstrations, the students moved quickly and meticulously through the work—stopping only to wave at passers by as an endless sea of appreciation poured out from the community. Under my supervision, the students worked both day and night to finish the 15’ × 70′ behemoth.
“In the end, a public dedication of the work was a wonderful chance to praise the students for their momentous effort and allow the public to meet our close and extended family throughout the … Southern Jurisdiction.
“I was asked by the Worshipful Master, if perhaps I might create another work that was as significant and glorious as the first. Without question, I accepted the charge.”
Bro. Brian Robert “Cat” Taylor is a member of Grand Strand Lodge No. 392. He teaches the mural class each summer semester, and murals designed by him and his students dot the landscape around campus and the surrounding towns that make up SC’s Grand Strand beach communities. Grand Strand Lodge No. 392 is located at 919 6th Avenue in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Additional Image Captions/Credits:
Top: The Masters of the Revolution mural in its entirety on one of the walls of Grand Strand Lodge No. 392, in North Myrtle Beach, SC. (Photography: Photography: Bro. Brian Robert “Cat” Taylor, MM)
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2017 Scottish Rite Journal—available online and via the free app for Apple and Android devices, just visit your preferred app store and search “Scottish Rite Journal.”