The Main Street Ramp will get some decoration this spring in the form of a new mural by a La Crosse artist.
Landon Sheely will paint “Helping Hands” on the concrete facing State Street at the intersection of Third and State streets, after the La Crosse Board of Public Works unanimously signed off on the project Monday. There is cut-in around the stairwell that offers a large blank canvass for the artist.
“I was trying to think of something that did speak to the community, that wasn’t pushing any boundaries, so to speak, making it community-friendly,” Sheely said.
The design was complicated slightly by the shape and size of the space. Being three stories tall makes filling the space difficult.
“It’s just three characters helping each other upwards,” Sheely said.
The size is new for Sheely.
“Mostly I work on a smaller scale,” he said.
Scaling the work up might be tricky, and he expects that it will take a team to get his art on the wall.
“I’ve got some people that I’m going to just trust,” he said.
He doesn’t expect the concrete surface to give him any trouble.
“It’s pretty smooth. I’ve definitely painted on much rougher surfaces, and texture is a lot of what I do anyway,” Sheely said.
Council member Jacqueline Marcou, who represents the downtown area, brought the idea to the Arts Board as a way to spark additional support for local artists and beautify the city. That board unanimously supported the painting and gave Marcou the go-ahead to ask the Board of Public Works to approve putting the work on a city-owned structure.
“She kind of carried this whole thing,” Sheely said.
Marcou worked for months to figure out the logistics and funding of the work, which will cost about $1,500 to $2,000 to be taken out of the Arts Board’s operating budget.
“I was inspired by a trip to Madison. On Willy Street, I saw a lot of murals, and that reminded me that we don’t have that much public art in La Crosse,” Marcou said.
In particular, she said, a mural on a similar concrete surface called “Try a Little Tenderness,” based on the famous lyric sung by Otis Redding, piqued her interest in bringing more art to La Crosse.
“I think people are in support of more public art and removing barriers to producing that public art, especially in our downtown area,” she said. “It spreads to other parts of the city, too.”
She asked Sheely to participate because she was familiar with his previous public artwork, including both inside and in the alley behind Root Note.
“We wanted to promote a local artist who’s been around for a little bit. We wanted to showcase someone who has been here, kind of more on the guerrilla art level,” Marcou said.
Sheely thought it was a great idea when Marcou presented it to him.
“I just want this kind of thing happening. I don’t need to be doing it. I just want to see it happening,” Sheely said.
They decided to keep it simple for the first art project.
“Why not just see if we can get this like a one-off and have it be a catalyst for other projects?” Marcou asked.
Her dream is to have an annual contest to add additional murals each year, with a variety of artists and art styles.
“I know that not everyone is going to like or relate to this particular mural,” Marcou said. “That’s the beauty of art. Everyone finds beauty in different types of art.”