Work continues to bring the Walldog mural painters to Beaver Dam to add more striking murals to the sides of downtown buildings.
It is an ongoing effort, and involves one mural this summer and up to 15 in 2017.
The first scene, painted by Walldog muralists in 2013, depicts a cozy kitchen with information related to the Monarch Range factory that ignited Beaver Dam’s economy for generations. Although few signs of the multibillion dollar industry remain, memories of the industry run deep in the city’s consciousness. The mural was installed on the south side of the Richards Insurance building at 123 N. Spring St.
Walldog Public Art is an international assembly of artists that paints murals in downtowns across the United States and beyond. The volunteer group is committed to providing art for communities and for providing education and opportunities for artists.
Some in Beaver Dam have been critical of the placement of the first mural, describing it as difficult to locate or even invisible.
“One of the questions we get a lot is, ‘Why are the murals so hidden? We can’t even see them when we’re driving through downtown.’” said Karla Jensen, Downtown Beaver Dam Inc. Design Committee chair and mural campaign promoter. “The answer is simple. Murals are placed to enhance the downtown walking and shopping experience. They are easy to see as one strolls from business to business or visits the River Market, the farmer’s market or other activity. We want people to spend time downtown, not just speed through on the way to somewhere else.”
According to downtown group president, Josiah Vilmin, Downtown Beaver Dam Inc. has a goal to make downtown a destination; a place where people will gather and enjoy time with family and friends.
“Having murals in alleys, around corners and in unexpected places will help to make that experience memorable, as proven in so many Walldogs communities,” Vilmin said. “Helping downtown business is our focus, first and foremost.”
The mural being painted by Walldog artists this summer (July 8 to 12, during Lake Days weekend) will be placed on the south side of the Inter-Quest building, 304 S. Spring St., adjacent to the small park that provides access between South Spring Street and the Tower Parking Lot. Inter-Quest has had the space designed to provide a restful oasis, and has incorporated outdoor music and a system of water reclamation that makes the space both self-sustaining and attractive.
The mural theme is related to early technology and the building’s long-time occupant, Kamrath’s Radio Store. A photo discovered in the archives of the Dodge County Historical Society Museum, 105 Park Ave., depicts a technician repairing a radio in the store that once occupied that space. The mural design may also include the logo for the RCA Victor Company – dog Nipper listening to “his master’s voice” coming from a Victrola phonograph.
“We’re very excited to see what the muralists come up with,” said Bill Schwartz of Inter-Quest.
“We’re happy to be a part of beautifying downtown and making it a special place for everyone to enjoy,” said Jeff Davidson, also of Inter-Quest.
The plan for the 2017 includes between 10 and 15 murals of different themes and shapes on downtown buildings. Each will highlight Beaver Dam’s past, relating to businesses, industries and products that helped to make the city what it is today.
According to Betty Reals, operator of the Beaver Dam Antique Mall and committee member, “I see a lot of Beaver Dam history pass though my door, and have brought a lot of it to the attention of the design committee. I regularly see boxes and merchandise from Ziegler Brewery, Monarch Range and Bear Brand Hosiery, just to name a few. Those businesses had a huge impact on the city and are part of the “golden age” of Beaver Dam commerce.”
According to Jensen, plans are currently being formulated on how to raise the third of each mural cost through Downtown Beaver Dam Inc. fundraisers. Funds are raised through mural merchandise sales (available on the bddowntown.com website), murder mystery dinners, Beaver Dam Lake dinner tours, sales of tool caddies and shoe polishing boxes, pooling of organization funds and other sources. Planners are hopeful that sponsors will fund a third of the cost, city facade improvement grants might cover a third and that DBDI will cover the remaining third. The total estimated for the 2017 International Walldog mural event is between $100,000 and $150,000.
“We believe this goal is one we can reach, and that the city will support something that will have a huge impact on the city’s tourism economy,” said DBDI vice president Jonas Zahn. “In cities like Plymouth, tourism spending is up 40 percent, and there’s no reason we can’t achieve something like that when we become a Walldogs mural community.”
For more information or to contribute to the mural campaign, stop by the Seippel Arts Center, or contact Jensen at Wayland Academy, 356-2120, extension 236.