The News Journal is counting down the year’s top stories. Today we look back at a famous singer’s exhibition at the Mansfield Art Center and plans to build an indoor sports center near the intersection of Interstate 71 and Ohio 97.

8. John Mellencamp’s artwork featured locally

The Mansfield Art Center scored a major coup when it presented the artwork of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer during a weeks-long exhibit last summer called “Paintings & Assemblages.”

More than 55 of Mellencamp’s pieces were on display, including some that had never been seen before.

Mellencamp is best known for a string of hits in the 1980s, including “Hurts So Good,” “Jack & Diane” and “Pink Houses.” The Indiana rocker has sold more than 60 albums worldwide.

In addition, Mellencamp is an accomplished painter, collector and activist. “Paintings & Assemblages” documented American’s heart and soul, exposing unsettling, but beautiful truths with an attitude of defiance and narrative sensibility.

Mellencamp’s paintings are as provocative as his political statements.

In one of his paintings, called “Gun Control,” Mellencamp wrote the words, “So this is gun control” above a painting of a young boy with a hole in his chest. Below were the words “the 2nd Amendment in action.”

Another provocative piece, called “Strange Fruit II,” references the Billie Holiday song that protested the lynching of Black Americans, comparing them to fruit hanging from trees.