Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Downtown murals underway

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD – Three new pieces of public art will soon be finished downtown as part of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau’s “Paint the Town” mural program.

The murals will be painted on Market Street, North Sixth Street and East State Street.

A team of local artists is creating the Market Street piece while Chicago’s Justus Roe will complete the Sixth Street project. Noted New York street muralist Kelsey Montague will paint the East State piece.

The Market Street mural which is being painted on a back wall of the building at 134 N. First St., is being done by artists from Therese Rowinski’s 317 Studio & Gallery. It’s an alley piece that faces the east corner of the popular gallery’s Market Street storefront.

“This alley is really a neat little space that we thought is a neat little space that we could do something bright and colorful, and really enchanting,” Rowinski told reporters Monday.

The materials for the mural were donated by the Sinnissippi Audubon Society. Artists are also volunteering their time, making it a true public piece that benefits the entire community.

“(They are) giving artists who are willing to stand on scaffolding all day in the beating heat,” Rowinski told WREX.

When finished, the mural will honor everything about the Northern Illinois region, including the Rock River, which literally rolls through downtown a block from 317 Studio. The colorful painting will depict native plants, rocks and grass that grows along the 320-mile Rock River that begins in the headwaters above the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in south central Wisconsin. The mural is expected to be finished by the first weekend of October.

Roe’s mural at 525 N. Sixth St. will cover a blighted retaining wall. The RACVB is raising funds for the project.

Montague’s mural at 331 E. State St. will be completed between Sept. 22-27. The City, Rockford Park District and the building owner have partnered to make it happen. Montague’s work became famous after singer Taylor Swift posed next to one of her pieces in New York’s Nolita neighborhood. The artist now travels the world creating art and has authored two coloring books.

The mural will complement the one Boylan High School student Libbie Frost painted on the East State Street Bridge near Joe Marino Park in July. The 17-year-old self-funded the project, raising nearly $500 through a GoFundMe campaign.

“I hope that you plan a visit to the Rockford Mural and take photos with your family and friends,” Frost wrote on her GoFundMe page. “Also, posting to social media using the hashtag #weloverockford is an interactive way to promote our wonderful city. Public art is for everyone to enjoy. I am so thankful for this opportunity.”

According to “Paint the Town” guidelines, pieces must provide for an interactive photo opportunity when possible; be absent of any political, social statements or influences; be happy, uplifting and colorful; represent a pro-Rockford message; have a universal appeal; have a design and implementation that reflects a high level of excellence; and be highly visible and well trafficked. R.

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