Over the next week, volunteers at the Riverside Arts Center will be preparing the west wall of the building at 32 E. Quincy St. in preparation for the painting of a new mural by Dutch artist Collin van der Sluijs beginning July 10.
While the mural will no doubt go off without a hitch, weather permitting, there has been in recent weeks a little behind-the-scenes drama, which village trustees are expected to resolve at their meeting on July 7.
In talks with the village regarding their plans for the mural, Riverside Arts Center officials learned that the village’s code of ordinances was not crystal clear when it came to murals, which aren’t mentioned anywhere in the municipal code.
Even though there has been a mural on the wall for decades and others exist in the downtown business district, the sign code doesn’t address them, and on July 7 trustees are expected to add language to the sign code clarifying that rules regarding size, etc., don’t apply to art.
“I think it’s an indication of the importance of the Riverside Arts Center to downtown Riverside,” said Liz Chilsen, the center’s executive director about village officials acting quickly to make the mural a reality. “The muralist is internationally known and it will bring a lot of positive attention to the village and, I hope, spur economic activity in the downtown in a good way.”
Amending the code is just one way the village is demonstrating its support for the mural project. At their meeting on June 16, village trustees also voted to revive the village’s dormant business façade improvement grant program, which is administered through the Riverside Economic Development Commission.
When it announced the mural project in June, the Riverside Arts Center also put out a call for donations to help pay for that effort and future initiatives
The vote by trustees on June 16 earmarks $15,000 for the business façade grant program in 2022. That same night, the Riverside Arts Center submitted a grant application seeking $5,000 to pay the balance of the fee for the muralist.
The grant program allows the village to reimburse 50 percent of the cost of a single façade improvement project up to $5,000. The Riverside Arts Center’s mural project budget is just under $12,000, according to the application submitted to the village.
On June 29, members of the Riverside Economic Development Commission recommended approving Riverside Arts Center’s grant application for $5,000.
Obtaining the grant “puts us really close to reaching what we need” to pay for the mural project, Chilsen told the Landmark in a phone interview last week.
“I’m so gratified by the willingness and excitement on the part of the village to make this happen,” Chilsen said.