Eau Claire got way more colorful this summer
Street art has popped up all around our city in the past few years with designs varying from a rainbow hop seed cone, Bon Iver album art, and bold, vibrant graphics throughout downtown. With such poignant current events occurring throughout our world – whether that’s the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, or our presidential race – the local art community found it important to draw attention to these pressing matters through this highly visible art form.
Two different murals with the same message popped up in July: one on the back of Details and one on the side of Ramone’s Ice Cream Parlor. The Eau Claire Public Arts Council and Chippewa Valley Votes collaborated with artist Clark Stoeckley in the creation of these pieces to highlight the important issue of voting. The artist put his own twist on Robert Indiana’s famous “LOVE” design by replacing it with “VOTE” – but, as the artist says, his murals are meant to incorporate both meanings to encourage us to love our right to vote by making sure we head to the polls.
Another piece painted in July was a Black Lives Matter mural paying homage to lives lost at the hands of police brutality, making its home on the garage doors of The Lismore. Brittany Tainter – the owner of Giizhig Design Co. in Eau Claire – and Brooke Newmaster – the organizer of a local BIPOC group – created the design. Antoine Hill and his nine-year-old daughter, Carolina, assisted in the project, as well as Navontay Wilson, the owner of Premium Blendz Barber Lounge in Eau Claire. Wilson labeled the art as “a representation of a voiceless community that America has chosen to ignore.” The mural shows the faces of Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Marsha P. Johnson, Emmett Till, and their loved ones, with their faces purposefully void of color within a sea of vivid tones to display the acute loss of community vibrancy that accompanied their deaths.
The most recent mural to make its entrance onto the downtown streets of Eau Claire can be found on the back of The Metro, displaying a painting of an antique key. Commissioned by Benny Haas, owner of The Metro and The Plus, the mural was created by Eau Claire artist Rehannah Petska, who took Haas’ idea of love as the theme and vamped it up to create a “love is the key” theme. Since The Metro is the venue for many weddings, love was an all-encompassing message that was sure to draw in event-goers and daily passersby for photo opportunities. As Haas says, “We are an arts community.” What better way to show love to our town than to fill it with important and vibrant imagery?
In this same spirit, five ColorBlock muralists – Christina Dickman-Loew, Jaden Flores, Evan Peterson, Abby Semmann, and Jenna Wood – were selected to adorn the 600 block of South Barstow Street in downtown Eau Claire with their designs in late August. Though the ColorBlock project originally planned for 50 murals, the pandemic forced the committee to start a little smaller. Inspired by this year’s theme, “Imagination,” these artists seek to represent the vitality and diversity of the Eau Claire community. According to ColorBlock committee planning member Kelsey Wenberg, they hope to add on more mural projects throughout this year.