award.jpg (37188 bytes)

Arts supporters who accepted a state award recognizing
Belvidere's Wall-to-Wall Arts Festival were beaming with community pride
in Chicago. Letterheads will recognize WallDog hosts Jay Allen and fiancee
Jody Whitehead, pictured here  second and thid from the right. Congratulations
to everyone who worked so hard to pull this off.

Murals Get Their Night In Limelight

By Lauri Schumacher...BDR News Editor

The three-day festival, during which more than 250 sign artists from the United States and Canada painted nine outdoor murals around the city, earned Belvidere a prestigious Governor's Award for the Arts from the Illinois Arts Council. The awards, bronze sculptures of a "hybrid muse," were presented Wednesday night at Chicago's Harold Washington Library Center. Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton accepted the award on the city's behalf.

The award was a particular honor because only five were presented, said Terri Gaby, executive director of the Belvidere Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber helped sponsor the murals project.

"It's amazing," Gaby said. "It makes me feel good that I could come from a community where this could happen."

Jay Allen, who co-chaired the murals project, said he got a little emotional watching the videotape presentation highlighting Belvidere's project.

"Looking up there at the town you were born in and seeing it get that kind of recognition is unbelievable," he said. "Nobody needs to say your name. You can be behind the scenes and get the same amount of pride."

Allen said he thinks of the murals as his babies because he put so much work into helping create them. But the murals are also something the entire community can enjoy. he said.
"One of the most fulfilling aspects of the project, Allen said, was watching the community come together in support of the murals. As in any community, he said, it's often hard for different groups to find common ground. The murals are a rare exception."

Belvidere's success in making art accessible to the entire community is what earned the Governor's Award, said Joan Sage, co-chairwoman of the murals project. "Art is the great equalizer," she said.

Sage said she agreed with something former Gov. James Thompson, another of Wednesday night's honorees, said- that without art there is no civilization. But she said she wanted to take his sentiment one step further.

"Without art, we have nothing," Sage said.

"Even without the award, Allen said, touching the community still would have been enough.
If only one kid is inspired, you can take all the sculptures and awards and put them in a scrap heap because they don't matter as much," Allen said.

In hopes of inspiring the community. Gabby said the Chamber of Commerce plans to display the Governor's Award statue in a case that would travel from place to place.
Gabby said an early stop might be the Community Building Complex, where residents could get a closer look at it over Hometown Christmas weekend. Dec 5 though 7.

Murals project recalls town's robust history.

Preparation for the Wall-to-Wall Arts Festival held this June in Belvedere took almost 18 months and resulted in 9 murals being painted on downtown buildings. What started out as a request by Joan Sage to find a way to enhance the appearance of the side wall on the building at 410 SO. State St., quickly became a large-scale community event led by Sage and Jay Allen, an area sign painter.

The arts festivals drew more than 200 Letterhead artists to the area. The Letterheads, who consider themselves a non-organization of sign painting artists, chose Belvedere as the sight for their annual international convention.

Organizers said the goal of each mural project leader was to depict an historic advertisement reminiscent of a time in Belvedere history when downtown was bustling with retail business.
The centerpiece of the project was the 1900's Street scape painted on the wall of the SO. State Street Building that was Sage's inspiration. The Street scape portrays both real businesses that existed in Belvedere and frictional businesses that project leader Bill Hueg called "Artistic Impressions."

The festival was held in conjunction with the annual Women's Club Art Show, which draws thousands of people to Big Thunder Park.

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