Artists brushing up downtown Vinton, refurbishing murals and creating new ones

'Walldogs' refurbishing and creating murals

Clockwise from top left, Christine DeShazo of Murphysboro, Ill., Joy Kjer of Lincoln, Neb., and Carol Kaufmann of Watsek
Clockwise from top left, Christine DeShazo of Murphysboro, Ill., Joy Kjer of Lincoln, Neb., and Carol Kaufmann of Watseka, Ill., work Thursday on the mural “Educating our Blind” in Vinton. Artists from across the country have come to Vinton to repaint their original murals, or to add complementary murals on the sides of downtown buildings. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

VINTON — Two decades after he first painted Vinton’s Sweet Corn Day Festival mural, Jay Allen and his team are back refurbishing it.

Allen and a group of other Walldogs — a group of public mural artists that travels the world — are in Vinton this week as part of the city’s sesquicentennial celebration, which lasts through Saturday.

The teams of artists, which began work Wednesday evening, are refurbishing six murals and creating five new ones throughout downtown. Some of the new ones are companion pieces to existing murals, and all are meant to reflect pieces of Vinton’s history, said Jon Clingman with Vinton Unlimited, the merged Chamber of Commerce and economic development group that planned the sesquicentennial celebration.

The first Walldogs murals, painted in 2000, were created in conjunction with a streetscape project to improve Vinton’s downtown. Since then, some of the original murals started to chip and fade, Clingman said.

Allen’s original mural, at the corner of A Avenue and Fourth Street, features hands shucking corn on the cob and the text “Winton’s Sweet Corn Day Festival” in yellow and green.

It now will be accompanied by a plaque explaining the history of the event.

“The whole point is feet-on-the-street economic development,” said Allen. of Rockford, Ill. “There’s somebody that’s going to stand at the wall and they’re going to read that and the longer they stand at the wall, they might say, ‘You know what? I’m thirsty.” And guess what that mural just did? Kept them there long enough to spend money.”

A companion piece to Allen’s, meant to represent memories of Sweet Corn Day’s parade and picnic, is being painted alongside the original.


The other companion pieces are centered on the city’s history with baseball, the Benton County Fair and its history with trains.

“We didn’t really want to try to come up with six brand-new concepts for a mural. That’s a time-consuming process,” Clingman said. “Those lent themselves to companion pieces because there’s more to that story than what you can cover with just one mural.”

The new stand-alone mural is mean to illustrate Vinton’s history with educating students who were visually impaired as the home of the state’s Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. Clingman said the idea came about from public comments after the original project.

“We hadn’t represented that on a mural so to me that was easy,” Clingman said. “You can’t do something for 150 years without showcasing it.”

The public can view the Walldogs painting through Saturday. A complete list of sesquicentennial celebration activities can be found here.

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