Finding Sanctuary: Madison-Based Artist Integrates Local Ecology, Creativity in New Fire House Mural Project
new downtown E.C. mural details return of sandhill crane, represents hope for the future
A passion for art and travel has brought Madison-based muralist Sylvia Annelise Hecht all across the globe and back to her home state to create a new mural on the Graham Avenue-facing exterior wall of The Fire House tavern in Eau Claire as part of the Oxbow Hotel’s 2021 artist-in-residence program.
“For me, mural art, and something that’s so special about it, is that it really is inseparable from the space in which it’s made for,” Hecht said. “It’s not something that you’re painting on a canvas and then it might find a home anywhere in the world. It’s really intrinsically tied to the space.”
I really believe in trying to erase barriers between life and art, and erase the notion that art is reserved for specific spaces or specific people.
And I think that creating public art is such a beautiful opportunity to give people an opportunity to recognize their own creative nature in everyday life.
Sylvia Annelise Hecht
Thanks to a partnership with The Pablo Group and Downtown Eau Claire Inc.’s Downtown Enhancement Grant, Hecht and a team of local artists will spend early October muralizing the popular downtown tavern through Oct. 20. They began work late on the evening of Monday, Oct. 4, projecting the mural image onto the building, thanks to help from the Pablo Center.
Hecht attended classes at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design as part of a high school college program, then attended UW-Madison before she decided to get more hands-on through traveling the world and exploring different art mediums.
She bought a one-way ticket to southern Mexico, journeyed through Guatemala, then through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Columbia. Most recently, she spent the past year and a half in Cape Town, South Africa. It was through the Wisconsin native’s adventures that she found her true passion: mural art.
“It was a very new experience for me,” she said, “and I just totally fell in love. I never would’ve seen myself as a mural artist before I started traveling, but it’s something I fell in love with quite quickly once I got some experience with it.”
HERE'S A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE MURAL ...
Her first Eau Claire-based mural is titled “Sanctuary,” inspired by the return of the sandhill crane to much of the Midwest – a good omen and a sign of hope for ecologists and nature-lovers.
The blue-green natural imagery is what Hecht imagines is a sunrise scene, and it's an image she hopes conveys a sense of creativity and inspires locals who walk past it.
“I really believe in trying to erase barriers between life and art,” she said, “and erase the notion that art is reserved for specific spaces or specific people. And I think that creating public art is such a beautiful opportunity to give people an opportunity to recognize their own creative nature in everyday life. … I think that art is really a part of our true nature, and so sharing public art is a really beautiful way to get people to recognize their own creativity and their own creative nature.”
This is Hecht’s second mural in the state; she also created one in Madison. All of her pieces are directly inspired by the surrounding area, she said, and she hopes to integrate a sense of locality and home into them.
She also hopes her artwork reminds people that there is creativity in every facet of life.
“There’s so many things that we’re doing on a daily basis that people don’t think of as stretching those creative muscles,” she said, “but the more we can bring presence and awareness to that, I think that it really does improve quality of life … just to recognize the creative essence in the things that we’re already doing. And I think public art can foster that in a really beautiful way.”
Here are a few photos from the projection night on Monday, Oct. 4:
How did projecting the image onto the exterior wall work? Well, lucky for Hecht, the Pablo Center is located directly across the street from The Fire House, so the kind crew from Pablo offered their projectors for Hecht to use.
Check out progress on the mural on social media (via The Oxbow Hotel and The Fire House’s Facebook pages and The Oxbow Hotel and The Fire House’s Instagram pages) and check out more of Hecht's work at her own Instagram.
Check out a few of her other mural pieces: