An Artist's Twist of Fate: From McDonald's to Living Her Own American Dream

When Julie Boman was a little girl, she decided to express herself artistically -- by drawing a horse on her parents' marriage certificate.

She was in a heap of trouble from the act of childhood mischief, but it proved to be prophetic. Today, Boman is one of three full-time artists in the carousel studio at Chance Rides -- America's largest amusement-ride maker just outside Wichita, Kansas. She paints horses, tigers and dolphins -- even mythical creatures like jackalopes -- for the ride that has been the center of carnivals for more than a century.

Boman, who is self-taught, paints gorgeous animals every vibrant hue of the rainbow, then embellishes them with final touches like jewels and lace. Carousels take an average of three months to assemble, with a single animal taking between 80 and 110 hours to build and decorate.

She also painstakingly adds detail to the center panels of a carousel, inspired by everything from famous works of art to travel photos she spots in magazines. It's that imagination that landed her a job at Chance 15 years ago.

After seeing a mural Boman painted in her church's basement, a fellow parishioner told her boss at a local McDonald's about Boman's artistic skills. He hired Boman to paint murals at a few of his Wichita franchises. "It was my first paying job as an artist," Boman says.

A family friend, who worked at Chance, saw her work at McDonald's and came to pay Boman a visit one Sunday afternoon. He asked her a question that ended up changing her life: "How would you like to paint carousel animals?"

Boman knows she's lucky to work as an artist in Kansas. "Everyone told me, you better get a backup, you can't do art for a living," she says. "I never thought this would be reality."

But Boman says that Chance being family owned makes all the difference in her work. Both Mike and Dick stop by the studio on a regular basis and Mike often brings his 6-year-old son Carter by on Saturdays to visit the animals. "Oh, he loves carousels," Boman says.

"If you had a corporate board running the company, they'd be focused on the profit and having all of this made in Mexico or China," she says. "And they could have all of this done for less [money]. It's nice to have bosses who let you focus on quality."

Go to ThisBuiltAmerica.com for more Made in the USA stories.


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