Route 66 in the News
Mural and Sign Art Museum Opens
PONTIAC, Ill. - Last summer, the Walldogs paid tribute to Pontiac, painting 19 murals that depict its people, places and historic events.
Now the city is paying tribute to the volunteer painters.
On Saturday, the International Walldog Mural and Sign Art Museum will open at 205 N. Mill St. The city-funded museum will look at the history and evolution of the art. The Walldogs is a group of artists from all over the country and the world. Each year members travel to a few communities to paint murals in their downtowns.
“This is to tell how murals started back in the late 1800s … how it started with wall advertising,” said Ellie Alexander, director of Pontiac Tourism. “Then we go all the way up to the modern-day Walldog.”
Preparations for the opening, which also dovetail with this weekend’s Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor events, have been fast-paced this week.
Museum manager Kristen Mehlberg was busy getting dozens of paintings and photographs ready for display. She also received hundreds of sketches along with t-shirts, as well as photos of other murals along Route 66. Several rooms will be filled with art for sale.
“I’m excited for the community as it brings a new addition downtown and it really validates what our city is,” said Mehlberg, assistant coordinator for Pontiac Redeveloping Our United Downtown. “When we see a vision, we go after it.”
The museum was funded through tourism revenue and the city’s tax increment financing district, which diverts a portion of tax monies from the area into a redevelopment fund.
Bill and Jane Diaz, owners of Diaz Sign Art, had the original idea to bring the Walldogs to Pontiac. Being Walldogs themselves, Jane Diaz said that she was thrilled at the idea of having a space dedicated to their passion.
“It’s awesome, and I know that everyone is excited to come back to Pontiac,” she said.
From 20 to 50 Walldogs who participated last summer are set to make appearances Saturday. The museum opening also coincides with the annual Red Carpet Corridor. The Saturday and Sunday event, now in its fourth year, celebrates the Illinois cities along Route 66 from Joliet to Towanda. A total of 12 cities are involved, and numerous activities are set up in each of the communities.
Regular hours for the museum will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.
~Tony Sapochetti, Pantagraph.com