- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

BEAVER DAM, Wis. (AP) - Artist materials may include paint, metal, stone, online art and other media, but two Beaver Dam artists can now add something more unusual to that list - the sides of buildings.

Jessalyn Braun and Judy Beyer were accomplished artists in their own right, but earlier this month they joined Walldog Public Art painters at a mural festival in Delavan. Their effort is, in part, to help them prepare for a mural festival in Beaver Dam in 2017.

Their recent initiation makes them official Walldog artists, and unites them with a group that has been promoting mural art across the United States for more than 20 years, the Daily Citizen (https://bit.ly/1M6P2lN ) reported.

Both Braun and Beyer have been creating art for years. Braun, a Beaver Dam native who was living in Chicago, recently returned home and became the executive director of the Beaver Dam Area Arts Association. Beyer, who is perhaps most noted for her watercolors, joined the Walldogs in 2012 in Kewaunee, Illinois, and helped the Walldogs when they created a Monarch Range mural in downtown Beaver Dam in 2013.

Event organizer Karla Jensen has been touting the benefits of murals to the local economy, and is seeking donations and support for a huge mural festival in 2017. That festival promises to bring up to 200 artists to the city to complete 12 to 15 murals in five days.

“It is a proven fact that tourism to Walldog mural cities increases by 40 percent or more after the festival is completed,” Jensen said. “Not only do the cities look better with so much beautiful art, they also gain financially through tourist dollars that are spent there. That’s what we will achieve in Beaver Dam as well.”

Costs include materials, a fee paid to the designer of each mural and whatever costs there are for food and lodging. Most painters volunteer their time and participate for the sheer joy of creating monumental public art.

“It’s all to help communities in their revitalization efforts,” said Braun. “People from around the world are committed to what the Walldogs do.”

Murals are the latest idea for revitalizing downtown Beaver Dam, and reflect Downtown Beaver Dam Inc.’s best hope for helping old businesses and attracting new ones to the city’s core.

“It has worked elsewhere and it will work here,” said DBDI president Josiah Vilmin. “Our organization is backing this effort 100 percent, and will be doing all it can to insure its success.”

Braun and Beyer will be wielding paint brushes along with the other accomplished artists, recreating technology ads connecting to Kamrath’s Radio & TV Store, which occupied the Interquest building, around the middle of the last century. Although most downtown buildings housed many commercial enterprises, the link between past and current uses appealed to Interquest owners, who are covering a portion of the mural expense. The artwork will face a walkway that leads between two buildings to the Lower Tower Parking Lot, adjacent to the former mill pond (now the Beaver Dam River) which once powered the city’s early industries.

The mural will include a collage of a man working on an early radio, a Victrola phonograph ad and a Zenith television ad.

Special acrylic paints are used to insure that the murals last from 12 to 15 years. They then become “ghost murals” which gracefully fade - or they are retouched to last longer still. Agreements with building owners insure that the murals will remain undisturbed for the minimum “life expectancy,” or longer if the owner so desires.

Many murals are placed in locations where pedestrians may see them to promote foot traffic and a sense of community in the downtown area.

All of the excitement and creativity of the mural events appeal to both Beaver Dam artists. They, like other DBDI members, hope to bring beauty and prosperity to the downtown area - some of which can be seen at Walldog events

“I’m blown over by the excitement these events generate,” Beyer said. “The scope of the festivals and the sizes of the murals are so impressive. It’s a different scope and style than I’m used to. It’s amazing to see a whole city unite behind a common cause to get this done.”

“The side of a building is a different canvas than we’re used to as well,” said Braun, who painted murals in Chicago as well. “Everything about it is so big. The scale of a large wall mural is an amazing thing to see.”

The artists face unique challenges.

“You’re always working above or beneath someone so you have to be very careful about dripping paint,” Braun said.

“You’re always very careful about bumping or moving a ladder because there could be someone on it,” Beyer said. “There’s a lot of delicate lettering and painting going on and you have to be careful not to mess that up.”

“There’s also a time limit, so you have to keep working as much as you can,” Beyer said. “It’s a very cooperative effort.”

“It’s an amazing thing to see and be a part of,” Braun said “It’s something a whole community can unite behind and give its support.”

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Information from: Daily Citizen, https://www.wiscnews.com/bdc

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