University News

WIU Associate Professor of Art Duke Oursler
[Download Print-Quality Image]

WIU Art Professor Emeritus Mike Mahoney, Art Professor Bill Howard and Macomb Downtown Development Director Kristin Terry
[Download Print-Quality Image]

It Takes a Village to Create Public Art

June 13, 2019

Share |
Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL – A group of Western Illinois University faculty and students and Macomb community volunteers began work on a wall mural on the side of The Old Dairy restaurant Thursday afternoon.

The project, expected to take about two days to complete, is being led by WIU Art Professor Bill Howard and Art Professor Emeritus Mike Mahoney. It received a financial boost from a Performing Arts Society grant.

Howard and WIU Associate Professor of Art Duke Oursler have made a massive effort over the last several years to create a variety of public art projects in Macomb. They worked on placing the painted "Rocky" dogs throughout the city over several years, to raise money for scholarships for WIU art students, and with the placement of large sculptures in and around the downtown area.

"We have always been talking about murals," said Howard. "We want Macomb to be an arts destination. We wanted to marry the mural project to the community."

Howard met with Macomb Downtown Development Director Kristin Terry and Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Jock Hedblade to join forces on the project. The mural has many historical Macomb figures portrayed, such as Al Sears, and Macomb landmarks, such as the "EAT" sign on the former Maid Rite restaurant on East Jackson Street.

Howard designed and sketched the original idea for the mural and then the drawing was projected onto the wall and traced. Community volunteers began filling in the drawing with paint at noon Thursday.

Mahoney, a portrait painter, was hard at work painting the historical faces of Macomb, and WIU art student Ashley Derry, a senior, of Macomb, was high atop a ladder adding her own splash of color.

"I wanted to be a part of it because I think it's a really good idea for the community," she said. "And, while I've been working on it, I've learned a lot of Macomb history I didn't know."

Volunteer Sonja Schmidt showed up with a new paintbrush in her hand Thursday afternoon and was excited to begin painting flowers.

"I just thought it would be fun to be a part of this; it's a great idea," she said. "I live in Macomb and anything we can do to beautify it…I support that."

Oursler weaved between scaffolding to add a tan color to the piece. He said he and Howard have worked for eight years to bring a more artistic flair to Macomb.

"When people think Macomb, we want them to think art," he said.

Terry said the mural is a three-year plan that finally came together with the help of the PAS grant and from The Old Dairy owners, Mark and Emily Gamage, who paid to have the wall cleaned. Emily said she is proud to be a part of the public art project because it creates a "positive vibe" for the community.

Howard has a second wall mural painting planned this summer, near the Sports Corner @124 restaurant, just off the Macomb square. He said it will be WIU Athletics-themed, again with historical figures incorporated.

Painting will continue until 7 p.m. today (Thursday, June 13) and from 2-7 p.m. Friday.

For more information about the WIU Department of Art, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Relations