Mural series spruces up downtown building

By Brett Turner

One part of the city starts 2019 with a fresh look that will only improve with time due to the combined efforts of several community organizations.

A mural image of a “bat girl” created by a Springfield native C. Coles Phillips for LIFE Magazine in the 1920s, graces the side of the Pappas Building on Fountain Ave., the first of a series of murals that will become part of a larger project to beautify the city with more public art.

The Chamber of Greater Springfield, the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Turner Foundation, the Springfield Foundation and Project Jericho are part of the alliance brining the project to life.

Chris Schutte, Chamber Vice-President, Destination Marketing and Communications, said the idea for the mural series came out of visits to other cities.

“One of the communities we visited had quite a bit of public art. We found that it can elevate a community,” he said. “We’ve already got some great murals downtown and this can reinvigorate it further.”

Other murals include one depicting Vaudeville legend Gus Sun on the back of the former Regent Theater; a peace-themed one on the Springfield Family YMCA; and the “Catching Light” mural on the Solid Waste District building, completed in 2017. The latter two were done with Project Jericho.

There will be other Phillips murals added to the Pappas Building, with the next later in January and the others targeted to be hung by spring. Schutte said the challenge for the project was getting the 8 by 10 murals in high resolution large enough.

Kevin Rose of the Turner Foundation was instrumental in the research and getting the pictures.

Phillips became one of the premiere cover artists of his day with illustrations in numerous popular magazines, including some printed here in Springfield. By showing his art, it’s also a tribute to the city’s history and talent.

While the side of the Pappas Building may seem like a curious place to put the work, it’s part of a bigger project, according to Schutte. The area next to the building is an open alley that is looking to be turned into a small park and kiosk.

The groups are also looking at muralists to do further projects and possibly a festival that could result in things like walking tours to identify the works that can lead to more tourism. Rose leads the Westcott House for Architecture and Design’s Summer Tour Series that travels to various parts of the city and occasionally beyond.

Another wayfinding project coming is wrapping local traffic signal boxes with artwork. It’s an out-of-the-box way to turn the ordinary into something more.

“It’s something that can give us a different perspective of downtown,” Schutte said.

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