Photo murals reflect McGregor’s unique history

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These four sepia-toned photo murals went up on the side of Steve’s Silver Dollar, in McGregor, on May 25. The project, developed by the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts, highlights the history of McGregor’s downtown. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

With help from Zip Regan (below), Roddy Dull, from American Signs and Designs of Boscobel, Wis., installs one of the photo enlargement wraps in a specially designed 8-foot-by-16-foot aluminum frame.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

The McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts’ (MMCA) plan to install four historic photo murals on the west side of Steve’s Silver Dollar, in McGregor, has finally been fulfilled. 

Four unique images—one depicting a paddle wheel steamboat on the riverfront, the second the old passenger train depot, the third Main Street with the Alexander Hotel and Bickel clock prominently featured, and the fourth a parade down Main Street—were unveiled by Roddy Dull, with American Signs and Designs, on May 25.

“Our theme was Main Street,” said art center board member Beth Regan, who devised the mural project with fellow committee members Bonnie Pruett, Sandy Stevens, Anne Kruse and Maureen Wild. “You can see by the photos that we wanted to show more of what’s gone on in McGregor and honor the whole past.”

The art center has entertained the idea of enriching downtown McGregor with artistic murals for years. A plan finally emerged in spring 2017.

Regan credited Andrew Wroble, one of the exhibiting artists at The Left Bank Shop and Gallery, with suggesting the idea.

“Early on in the process, we were walking around, looking at buildings,” she said. “He’d seen small photos put on buildings. That idea grew into the billboards.”

Dull, who’s from Boscobel, Wis., and is also one of the exhibiting artists at The Left Bank, specially designed and built 8-foot-by-16-foot aluminum frames to hold the four sepia-toned historic photo enlargements. The enlargements are wraps, just like he’d create for a billboard, Dull noted.

Regan said the MMCA board looked into creating more traditional painted murals, but opted to go with photo enlargements because they were less costly and would also last longer.

“Painted on a building, it could wear off or fall off,” she said.

The mural committee selected the four historic photos, which were gathered with help from Jean Peterson, Duane Boelman, Maureen Wild, Lynette Sander and Brian Hedeman.

“We had to choose photos that could be cropped,” she explained. “It was quite a process.”

Placing the images on the side of Steve’s Silver Dollar was a no-brainer, said Regan, who described the building as a “blank canvas.” It’s a highly-visible location for people both walking and driving down Main Street.

Silver Dollar owner Steve Funk jumped at the plan.

“I thought it was a good idea,” he said. “It’ll be a nice, new look. It adds character.”

“It’s wonderful. I can’t wait to see people’s responses,” said Regan, as she watched her and the committee’s hard work come to fruition. “It’s part of the art center’s mission to encourage arts in the community.”

Funds from the 2016 Festival of Trees as well as a $6,450 grant award from the Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation helped purchase the aluminum frames and flex sign faces and pay for installation. The frames could be used in the future, with a change in location or changes to the flex sign faces.

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