JANESVILLE—The Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau will bring another coat of color to the city’s downtown when it hosts its 10th installation of Art Infusion from Sept. 4-12.
The 2021 iteration of the event will bring back some familiar names and faces while also adding a few new muralists to the mix.
“When we started, this it was strictly a sidewalk chalk art event,” said JACVB Executive Director Christine Rebout. “What is interesting about that medium is that you’re creating this beautiful piece but in a matter of weeks, it just disappears ... it’s gone. It’s a kind of temporary art.”
Inspired by the work of Jeff Henriquez, who created the Black Hawk mural downtown, JACVB decided to add a mural component to the festival in 2020.
This year, the event will once again feature five new murals being painted at downtown locations.
“Hopefully this year, it will be a little simpler,” said Art Infusion Committee member Nigella Ryan, who commissioned Henriquez’s Black Hawk mural. “We have artists that are coming from farther away. Last year, that wasn’t possible because of COVID-19. Nobody could travel.”
Mural artists this year include returning Milwaukee-based mural artist David Mark Zimmerman, aka Bigshot Robot; Ivan Roque of Miami, Florida; Nathan Brown of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Chicago-based painter Ruben Aguirre; CJ Hungerman, also of Chicago; Emily Balsley of Madison; and chalk artists Leigh Alfredson of Orlando, Florida, and Stacey Williams-Ng of Memphis, Tennessee.
The process of selecting artists for Art Infusion begins a full year before the event takes place. Before that, JACVB tries to determine which buildings will serve as potential canvases.
“We’re looking for buildings that have good access and that are in good condition but have the format we want,” Rebout explained. “Once we narrowed in and worked with the building owners, we made a call for artists. That (call) goes out to a lot of different artist websites.”
The Art Infusion committee received many submissions from around the country. A selection jury intentionally picks a variety of artists based on their individual styles.
Each year, the jury picks one artist to return. For 2021, that is Bigshot Robot, an artist JACVB had a great experience with last year, Rebout said.
“This year, we’ve been thrilled to be able to add a great deal of programming and more interactive ways for people to experience art,” she said. “That includes meeting the artists firsthand and allowing people to really immerse themselves in the event for the entire week.”
JACVB has added several new components to this year’s event. Among these is a community art project in which participants can pick up plain white puzzle pieces to decorate and return to be included in a larger piece that will be displayed at Uptown Janesville, 2500 Milton Ave. Pieces are available at JACVB, 20 S. Main St., Suite 11, Janesville, but must be returned by Monday, Aug. 30.
Other events beginning Saturday, Sept. 4, include a free temporary installation called My Pet Park. Balsley will transform an empty lot at 14 S. River St., next to the YMCA of Northern Rock County, into a pet-themed art showcase featuring different pets and animals. People can visit with Balsley from 10 a.m.-noon Sept. 4, while local storyteller Edie Baran will share interactive stories.
From 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7, fans of Henriquez’s work can get a sneak peek at murals of Anthony Bourdain and Julia Child he created at Sandwich Bar, 54 S. Main St. At the same time, the Janesville Art League will host its art show and reception at the Janesville Performing Arts Center, 408 S. Main St.
At 6:30 p.m. Frank Martin Busch and The Names will perform at the Marvin W. Roth Pavilion in Lower Courthouse Park, 51 S. Main St. From 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8, grab a cup of coffee or a brat with Zimmerman while he creates “The Adventurer,” a new mural set for Ace Hardware, 200 S. River St.
From 4-7 p.m., meet Art Infusion mural artists and enjoy live music by the Rockford Wind Ensemble with a kickoff event at the Rock County Historical Society, 450 N. Jackson St.
From 11 a.m.-noon Thursday, Sept. 9, Roque will be available to meet while creating his mural at Rock River Charter School, 31 W. Milwaukee St., and Jeremy Duncan, a poet currently incarcerated at the Rock County Jail, will either livestream a reading of his poem “The Door” or have it read.
From 5-7 p.m., Brown will appear at a viewing of Janesville Art Gallery work at the Janesville Woman’s Club, 108 S. Jackson St., before walking to the mural site at 14 S. Jackson.
Finally, from 6-7:30 p.m., “Roaming Rich” will lead an Artful Janesville Twilight Tour that features stops at public art pieces downtown. Tours are $25 per person and include refreshments. For reservations, visit RoamAroundTours.com.
The Art Infusion Chalk Art Competition begins in two spots at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10.
“We have a location for the kids to draw and that’s going to be Firehouse Park (with Alfredson at 113 N. Main St.),” Rebout said. “Then, across the street at the BMO Harris Bank building (with Williams-Ng at 100 N. Main St.) will be adults drawing. We will also have two separate area where master chalk artists will create big-scale pieces.”
Friday night also brings a family-themed party in the town square, 65 S. River St., that includes music, games and food trucks from 6-8 p.m.
Chalk art will continue to be created Saturday and Sunday, and Balsley will join a more family-oriented art tour with Roaming Rich on Sunday. Also on Sunday, the event’s final day, the chalk art competition will wrap at 2 p.m. with winners announced at 3:30 p.m. in Firehouse Park.
With so many events and artists involved, travel and supply costs for artists are mounting. Ryan is spearheading fundraising efforts to defray some of those expenses.
“I’m raising funds to basically pay the artists,” she said. “This year, we also have musicians. We have events at each of the walls during the week. Obviously, that’s an expense to them with all their supplies, travel and the equipment to lift them up on a wall. There’s a lot of moving parts.”
To donate to Art Infusion, checks payable to the Forward Foundation with “Art Infusion” on the memo line can be sent to Forward Foundation, 14 S. Jackson St., Suite 200, Janesville, WI 53548, or to Ryan at 117 S. Division St., Janesville, WI 53545. Donations also can be made through PayPal, and all donations are tax-deductible.
For more about Art Infusion events and work sites, visit Gazettextra.com/ArtInfusion2021.