‘Imagination’ Takes Shape: ColorBlock Mural Project Underway Downtown
five artists begin work on murals on 600 block of South Barstow Street
Imagination. That’s the theme of the first-ever ColorBlock mural project in downtown Eau Claire. Imagination has also played a role in how organizers and artists approached the project in such uncertain times – they had to pivot from their initial plan to have 50 murals along the 600 block of South Barstow Street to starting smaller, with just five. But the profusion of murals in downtown Eau Claire during the pandemic speaks to the imagination – and determination – of local public artists.
There are a ton of murals going up, and I think that really speaks to the importance of public art. If we learned anything this year and through all these crises, I think it's the power of art to communicate and connect us. I really think that these murals ... can provide a glimpse of hope and brightness in these indecisive times.” –Kelsey Wenberg, member of the ColorBlock planning committee
“There are a ton of murals going up,” said Kelsey Wenberg, member of the ColorBlock planning committee, “and I think that really speaks to the importance of public art. If we learned anything this year and through all these crises, I think it’s the power of art to communicate and connect us. I really think that these murals will – I hope that they’re a sign of hope. I hope that they can provide a glimpse of hope and brightness in these indecisive times.”
The ColorBlock planning committee and the board of directors of Sculpture Tour Eau Claire, which is overseeing the project, received hundreds of submissions from 63 local and regional artists, and selected Christina Dickman-Loew, Jaden Flores, Evan Peterson, Abby Semmann, and Jenna Wood as the first five artists to muralize as part of the project. “We were very conscious to try to select murals based on how we thought we could best represent our community through these submissions,” Wenberg said.
“I hope that when people look at my mural, they will feel a sense of community,” said Abby Semmann, an art teacher in Eau Claire. “For my art, it is important that it is not only colorful and creative, but showcases inclusivity.”
Semmann’s mural – like the other four muralists’ – will go up on the Clearwater Home Care building on the east- and south-facing walls of 615 S. Barstow St.
“I hope that my mural makes people smile and gives them a moment to forget about all of the craziness going on in the world right now,” said artist Jenna Wood, owner of Wood Creative LLC. “It has been a rough year so far, and I know this will be one of the highlights for me, so I hope I can share with them that love and happiness when they see my mural.”
Each of the murals were sponsored by a $400 fundraising campaign to pay $200 to Sculpture Tour, $100 to cover the costs of supplies for each artist, and $100 to pay each artist for their work.
“When philanthropy works as it has in Eau Claire's progressive community, it lifts everyone up with it. It is exciting to see the community-building momentum from the Chippewa Valley materialize into real art, real music, writing, and theater in public spaces for all to enjoy.” –Christina Dickman-Loew, ColorBlock muralist
“Like so many of the best things about Eau Claire, I believe there was a lot of volunteerism and other forms of philanthropy that were the springboard for ColorBlock,” Dickman-Loew said. “When philanthropy works as it has in Eau Claire's progressive community, it lifts everyone up with it. It is exciting to see the community-building momentum from the Chippewa Valley materialize into real art, real music, writing, and theater in public spaces for all to enjoy.”
The goal was, as Wenberg said, to showcase the diversity and vitality of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley community – something that Eau Claire-based artist Jaden Flores took to heart when imagining his piece.
“I hope to convey the feeling of empowerment and diversity with my art,” Flores said. “I was influenced by Mayan design and my own Mexican heritage while creating this illustration, and I’m excited to represent my culture with this piece. I also wanted to create a unique tribute to my fellow painters and tradesmen out there – a symbol to how we must keep standing tall and putting in the hard work we are committed to every day. To take pride in our work, even when it’s not easy or glamorous.”
The mural project is a win-win situation for the Sculpture Tour, local and regional artists, and the local community, Wenberg said. They hope that by muralizing downtown, they can create a kind of public art version of Sculpture Tour that works in connection with the 3D art tour. While artists search for their favorite sculptures, they can take a peek at the fresh new downtown art.
“These murals are so fun with the theme of ‘Imagination,’ ” Wenberg said. “I think it couldn’t have worked out any more perfectly. And yeah, I’m really excited to see these artists do their thing.”
For more information on the ColorBlock mural project, check out www.sculpturetour.org/murals.