I hadn’t been to a mural-painting meet for seven years. So, I relished going to Arcola, IL for the Walldogs’ “Pop the Top” event. Geography worked in my favor; Arcola, near Illinois’ eastern border, was an easy, four-hour drive from Cincinnati. Most others have been further north or west, and would require flying. I always enjoy traveling to small towns; the people are almost universally friendly, and independent radio stations defy corporate playlists and broadcast Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye and Metallica consecutively with impunity.
Arcola provided stellar local color, thanks in large part to the heavy Amish population – reportedly the largest Amish concentration outside of Pennsylvania – whose wares filled the shelves of numerous stores in Arcola’s bucolic downtown. A significant influx of Hispanic immigrants also contributed to local culture – and helped provide far better Latin-influenced food than one would normally expect from a tiny Midwestern hamlet with approximately 3,000 inhabitants. Against this idyllic backdrop, a world-class assemblage of mural painters converged to make Pop the Top a memorable event that will leave a positively indelible stamp on Arcola and, hopefully, generate tourism for the town.
“Cornbread” Scott Lindley, owner of CSL Studios (Mt. Pulaski, IL), spearheaded the event. He became involved when Arcola’s Beautification Committee began seeking a project leader to create a mural to commemorate the Arcola Record-Herald, the community’s newspaper since 1855. City Administrator Bill Wagner contacted an art-department professor at nearby Eastern Illinois Univ. for recommendations of a graduate to undertake the project; the instructor recommended Lindley.
A meeting of Lindley and the committee yielded a far more expansive vision: 15 murals that highlight numerous people, places and cultural amenities that have forged Arcola’s legacy. The meet’s preparation required approximately two years.
Hopefully, I’ve provided sufficient backstory. I think any further explanation would merely detract from how Walldogs from around the world once again fulfilled their mission to beautify the U.S. with masterful murals, one town at a time.
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