Downtown murals will promote city's history

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January 6, 2008
— Signs of Janesville’s past and future will start popping up around downtown Janesville this spring.

The Janesville Design & Development Center is launching its “Heart of the City” outdoor campaign, which will first appear as massive murals on downtown buildings and culminate with historical markers highlighting the community’s history.

Janesville Design & Development Center is working with a Rockford, Ill., company to develop three murals, which will feature original artwork transferred electronically to nylon canvasses that will hang on buildings.

“The artwork will reference downtown Janesville as the historical and geographic center of the community,” said Christine Moore, the center’s managing director.

The murals, which will be created by an undetermined artist, will feature the importance of agriculture, the Rock River and railroads to Janesville.

While the significance of the river and railroads in downtown Janesville is obvious, the role agriculture played in developing the area can’t be overlooked, Moore said.

“It all laid the groundwork for the community,” she said. “Before it was a downtown, it was a group of cabins on the river. There was farming in the area, trading in the area and eventually the production of farm machinery.”

Moore said the murals and their placement will cost between $15,000 and $20,000 each. Early donations have provided start-up funds for the project, but Moore said more funding will be solicited from the private sector.

Two years ago, the center spearheaded “Chevys on the Circuit,” an outdoor public art project that allowed businesses to sponsor fiberglass models of the modified 1957 Chevrolets built in Janesville. Individual artists than painted the models, which were spread throughout the downtown.

“‘Chevys’ was a wonderful starter public art project, where we took the raw statues and turned them over to artists who treated them as their canvasses,” Moore said. “This one will be a little different. There will only be three, and we want to create a particular branding for Janesville, raise the image of the downtown and teach the community about its heritage.”

Plans call for the three murals to go up in late spring, early summer and late summer.

They will be followed later this year or early next year with historical markers.

“The markers are intended to complement the murals,” Moore said. “They’ll provide a snippet of education on a piece of Janesville history.”

The markers most likely will move through Janesville’s history in chronological fashion, starting in the 19th century and ultimately progressing through relatively modern times.

The markers will be placed in visible locations that are particularly accessible to walkers such as the river walk and—with city approval—downtown sidewalks.

“What we’re trying to do is showcase a community that is proud of its heritage but is also moving forward,” Moore said. “We have a unique, wonderful history here that we can celebrate.”

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