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A mural recently went up "Without Labor Nothing is Possible,"  created by Chris Stain on the side of Lucky's. 

New York artist sprays Athens’ coal mining past on Lucky’s Tavern

Chris Stain, a New York-based muralist, spray painted four coal miners on the north wall of Lucky’s Sports Tavern last week. The project was completed in conjunction with Ohio University’s School of Fine Arts.

A New York-based artist recently gave life to a profession that was once a large part of Athens County’s economy.

Last week, Chris Stain, an Ohio University visiting artist, adorned the north wall of Lucky’s Sports Tavern, 11 N. Court St., with a mural depicting four coal miners — a symbol of southeastern Ohio’s industrial past.

“The intention of the mural is to commemorate the importance and dignity of laborers,” Karla Hackenmiller, a printmaking professor in OU’s College of Fine Arts, said in an email. “The owners of Lucky's have a family history in coal mining so this was a perfect partnership.”

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Stain completed the mural with the help of OU students, he said.

The mural, titled “Without Labor Nothing is Possible,” aims to “honor the hardworking people of the region,” Stain said in an email. The mural is based on a Depression-era photograph taken by Arthur Rothstein.

The artist’s weeklong stay was funded in part by university arts grants, which included renting parking spaces near Lucky’s, a scissor lift, materials for the mural and the artist’s take-home pay, Hackenmiller said.

Hackenmiller did not respond to a request for the total cost of the project by press time.

Athens City Council President Chris Knisely said she hasn’t seen the mural yet but is looking forward to the chance to take it in, especially considering its subject.

“This kind of thing is really important,” Knisely said. “When we can honor our cultural tradition from the Appalachian Ohio region, I think that’s an important thing to do.”

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Knisely added she enjoys seeing “intentional” art on walls around Athens, but is bothered by illegal graffiti in city, which she is working to correct with other council members.

But Stain’s artistic career can be traced to the graffiti Knisely detests, his website said.

“My interest in art began with NYC subway graffiti in the mid 1980s,” the site,, says. “Having learned printmaking methods in high school, I eventually shifted my technique toward stenciling.”

Stain began exhibiting his work in 2000. He now creates adaptations of photographs using spray paint, with the goal of illustrating “the triumph of the human spirit as experienced by those in underrepresented urban and rural environments.”

Stain has painted murals in the Midwest, New York City, Norway and Germany. He lives in Queens, New York, with his wife and two children.


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