Wonewoc Mural, a Recipe for Renewal

Wonewoc Mural, a Recipe for Renewal

Wonewoc, Wisconsin, with a population of some 800 souls, is steeped in history. A newly dedicated mural displays that history to motorists driving through town on State Highway 33 as well as to residents who patronize the library or gather for concerts on the library lawn. The creation of that beautiful mural is a story in itself—a story of civic pride, talented artists, and community-wide participation.

 This story began with the expansion of the Wonewoc Public Library a few years ago. After library and city officials toured the new Bell Family Community Room, they saw an opportunity to extend the beauty of the new building to its exterior environment. The wall of Larry’s Garage, adjacent to the library, would be a perfect place to frame the grounds of the library with the story of Wonewoc. Brian Sebranek, owner of the building, gave his permission.

 The first step was to recruit artistic talent to design and paint the mural. A 2017 outdoor wall painting at the Wonewoc swimming pool caught the eye of long-time resident and civic booster William Huebel. Huebel then contacted Dr. Sharon Ennis, Wonewoc-Center School District Administrator, whose Art Club had created the work.

 Art teacher Megan Danahy and the Wonewoc-Center Art Club brainstormed ideas for the mural and came up with a design that captures the “feeling of the village in folk-art style,” according to Danahy. A stroll along the 75-foot mural begins with the wood violet, state flower of Wisconsin. One next encounters the Wonewoc welcome sign with a circus tent honoring Dode Fisk, circus impresario, whose circus wintered in Wonewoc.

 Indian corn signifies the area’s agricultural base as well as the original sports moniker of Wonewoc-Center School teams. A colorful representation of the bike trail that runs through Wonewoc on the former Chicago and North Western right-of-way blends into a steam-puffing passenger train, one of many that disgorged hundreds of passengers each day during the heyday of the Wonewoc Spiritualist Camp.

 The natural beauty of the Driftless Area, with its rolling hills, sandhill cranes, and Baraboo river (complete with canoe and rubber ducky) completes the picture. The creation processes taught Ms. Danahy’s students to appreciate the history of their community as they honed their design technique.

 Local artist, Peter Krskjo, projected the students’ design from paper to the wall and they went to work.

 According to Noah Hill, a junior at Wonewoc-Center, painting took place from June 15th to July 17th this year. Ms. Danahy and students worked from 8:00 a.m. to noon some days and 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. other days. Even students who were taking summer school classes put in an hour or so a day. “The hardest part was painting cracked areas at the top,” said Noah, who put in a total of 58 hours painting the mural, “filling cracks and making sure that paint didn’t drip down.”

 During “Community Paint Days,” residents joined students painting the mural. Many gallons of high-quality exterior paint will protect the artwork from the elements for years to come.

 When the mural was completed on July 17th, Megan Danahy’s crew of artists painted six picnic tables in preparation for the mural dedication ceremony on August 14th. Games and activities for children, including chalk artwork on the library sidewalk, free food, and speeches to acknowledge the widespread support of the mural project celebrated the occasion.

 Dr. Sharon Ennis, Wonewoc-Center District Administrator, introduced Coleen Beier, President of the Village Board, & Brandi Jones, Trustee, who cited the value of the mural project to Wonewoc and its positive effect on the morale of its citizens.

 Megan Danahy, artist director and driving force behind the project, gave a heartfelt, gracious presentation thanking everyone involved, including local volunteers who pitched in to scrape and prime the wall, provide ladders and other equipment, and bring refreshments to students and community members that worked on the mural.

 Danahy also noted her husband, Doug, library Director Kim and her staff, and especially Bill Huebel, who paid for the paint and other supplies. “This represents a real community-wide effort,” she emphasized. At the conclusion of her remarks, Dahany welcomed her student artists to sign the mural, marking their place in Wonewoc history.

 The Wonewoc mural story is a recipe for renewal for small towns across the Driftless Area. Start with the main ingredients: civic pride, a pool of talent, and a story. Combine with enthusiasm, resources, and hard work. The outcome is a thing of beauty—a tourist attraction and a point of pride for residents and businesses alike.

Have a story of renewal about your Driftless Area town that you would like to share with Driftless Now? Please contact me at robertdaypotter@gmail.com.

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