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Local Editorials

OUR VIEW: Mural programs accentuate cities' culture, history

THE ISSUE: Ottawa's next mural could be done this spring

OUR VIEW: Growing mural program adds to city's culture

There's been quite a bit of intrigue surrounding Ottawa's next mural.

The 3-D mural, tabbed for the south wall of the Central Life Building on Columbus Street in Ottawa’s downtown, is expected to go up in the spring, according to the city’s A Brush With History Committee Chairwoman Peg Breslin.

Originally proposed to be completed this past summer, Breslin explained the delay was due to scheduling issues.

Illinois native John Pugh will paint the city’s 10th mural, and his first in Illinois, which is expected to give the illusion of popping out of the wall. A native of Lake Forest, Pugh now lives in California. Pugh has completed more than 200 murals around the world. (For examples of Pugh’s murals visit

Pugh’s style is “trompe l’oeil” — which is French for “deceive the eye.” The goal is to trick the viewer into believing what they see on the wall is real. Its theme focuses on Ottawa’s early beginnings, the city's speakeasy days, and the sad story of the Radium Dial girls.

We have to give kudos to the committee for attracting a world-renowned artist to Ottawa to continue the city's decades-old mural program.

“I wanted this to be the biggest and best we’ve had so far and to be done by an artist that in my mind illustrated what I saw as the direction this community has taken under (Mayor Bob Eschbach’s) leadership,” said A Brush with History artist liaison Christy Myers.

The California-based artist has painted a number of 3-D works across the globe with more recent ones including a Legends of the Hidden Temple mural for the children’s network Nickelodeon, and he currently is working on a mural for the Denver Zoo.

She sold the artist on the idea of coming to Ottawa by describing the city as a “good town, a friendly town” and told of its growing arts-centric focus.

Myers, who will also house Pugh, said the artist fell in love with the city’s deep history, some of which will be incorporated into the final mural.

The total cost for Ottawa’s mural is expected to be around $66,000. Some of the money has been raised with one final donation drive expected this year.

And Ottawa has some friendly competition with its mural program. This past summer, the Walldogs – a group of highly skilled sign painters and mural artists from all over the globe – descended upon Streator in a painting flurry, completing a dozen murals within days. The Walldogs take on such projects to help boost tourism in cities.

The murals in both cities add to the communities' cultural and historical scenes, providing public art for both residents and tourists to enjoy.

And it's important to note both programs were and are donation- and volunteer-driven.

Even though the weather is a bit frightful now, planning a tour of the murals or just taking some extra time to absorb them as you pass is well worth the effort.

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