MURAL MEMORIES: Art at Colfax’s Blind Tiger Created by Whole Family
with several generations of Colfax residents in one family, Jenna Wood was the obvious choice to create the historic mural
The creation of a new mural on the south side of The Blind Tiger Bar & Grill in downtown Colfax was a true family affair. Driving into Colfax off Interstate 94 and State Highway 40, the 16-foot-by-25-feet-wide mural grabs the eye with the words, “Welcome Historic downtown COLFAX,” painted in Colfax High School’s school colors of red, white, and black, with pops of yellow for its mascot – a Viking – and his blonde hair, eyebrows, and ’stache.
When Nick and Jessica “Jess” Anderson, the owners of The Blind Tiger (512 Main St.), began wondering what to do with the wall of their building next door to the gas station, Jess’s mom, Pam Cutler, suggested her nephew Mark’s wife, Jenna Wood, a local artist. Pam had seen Jenna’s bold and flashy mural of Nash the Astro Giraffe, which she created in 2020 as part of downtown Eau Claire’s ColorBlock mural project, which is located next to Christ Church Cathedral’s parking lot.
Nick and Jess let Jenna know they wanted their mural to represent the whole town of Colfax and not just The Blind Tiger. Jenna instantly turned to her parents, Lynn and Shari Johnson, for research. Both were raised on dairy farms in Colfax. Jenna’s grandparents, Bev and Ken Hainstock, met at the previous restaurant exactly on the other side of the mural wall, making her connection to the project even more meaningful.
To get things started, Jenna sketched a couple of ideas freehand. Nick and Jess chose the one they felt showcased the great history of Colfax, which Jenna then chose to display using icons and text.
The images quickly took shape: “Since 1864” for the year Colfax was founded. Tobacco leaves for early tobacco farmers. A cow’s head and a farm/barn scene to pay homage to all the farmers in and around Colfax (especially both sets of her grandparents who had dairy farms there – the Hainstocks and John and Vera Johnson). Colfax High School with its Viking mascot and a football for her parents’ meeting there, and a basketball for its state high school championship in 1978. The image of a historic building (the Colfax Public Library), the railroad tracks and the crossing sign for the Colfax Railroad Museum (the railroad runs right through downtown Colfax). Water represents the 18-Mile Creek and the Red Cedar River, which flow through Colfax. “Home” with a silhouette of the state with a star where Colfax is located and its 54730 Zip Code. And last but not least, The Blind Tiger logo with 512 for its address.
“I could not have done this without my husband, Mark Wood,” she wrote in an email. “He let me bounce ideas off of him as well as helped me get the blocks of color on. There are few places on this mural that he didn’t touch with painting himself.”
Her older sister, Shawna Stanley, was a huge help, too, Jenna said: “Shawna let me constantly bounce ideas off of her.” An amazing muralist herself, Shawna recently completed three murals in three days – at Country Sports in Wisconsin Rapids, Erv’s Sales & Service in Tomahawk, and POWER PAC in Marshfield – and owns her own art company, ShawnaLou Creative LLC.
When the mural was complete, Lynn told Jenna, “How cool it is that 60-plus years later, I have a daughter that is painting a mural in the town where I grew up, and where your mom and I met, got married, and started our family. That our family gets to leave a mark on the town of Colfax that means so much to us is SO cool.”