Helping Hands Projection

A composite image shows La Crosse artist Landon Sheely's "Helping Hands" projected on the corner of the Main Street parking ramp. The Board of Public Works Monday gave Sheely approval to paint on the ramp.

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.

Helping Hands sample

La Crosse artist Landon Sheely created this work, "Helping Hands," at the request of council member Jacqueline Marcou. The Board of Public Works Monday approved Marcou's public art project on the Main Street Ramp.

“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.”


La Crosse city government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(28) comments


I don't see this as aesthetically pleasing to locals or tourists. Can they put the blue egg baby by this and then install a tall privacy net over it to hide it from view? Why not ask for artistic submissions for a mural and have a public vote? Or, just leave it as it is. I've seen better graffiti than this.


I'm afraid that drunk college students will look at this and think it is an instruction manual for climbing the side of the ramp.

Proud LAX Dem

This is racist, two black people holding up a white person. I want the human rights commission to look at this, look at the motives of the person who made it. I also want the approval of every single minority’s group in La Crosse.


Reductio ad absurdum.


I'm all for murals downtown, but this particular piece is jarring visually and simply seems out of place - I could more easily envision it in a playground setting.


Was this the only "art" idea submitted? Probably, but since it suits the agenda of the local liberals why look further.

Apparently liberal group-think has taken over city and county government. This is not "art", it is a statement by liberals to remind the local peons in a very provocative and obvious way, in an in your face location, how they want peons to think and behave, and remind them daily of their proper place in their new bold new liberal La Crosse lifestyle agenda.


Maybe the blue faced lady is the mother of the blue faced baby coming out of the egg??

El Duderino

JLF, perhaps inadvertently, nailed it. It’s as if the La Crosse City Council concluded, “They think our “giant Indian” is offensive”. How’s ‘bout we stack two bizarre black faced cartoons along with a red faced one performing some strange balancing act (my opinion only) to iron out any sore feelings”? La Crosse isn’t as shooty/stabby as Madison, but, man, they’re trying awfully hard to keep pace with them with them on their social justice endeavors and associated wasting of resources.


This is a great idea, it’s about time La Crosse steps up its culture scene, and maybe inspire kids to do more than just drink beer. More color downtown please!

Buggs Raplin

WuTang, thanks for the laugh. I'm "sure" all the college kids on the way to the bars to get loaded will turn around and head back to the library after seeing these 'colorful' things.

Rick Czeczok

Here's an idea city council. If you're compelled to put something on these open walls why no sell the space for advertising. Reason being the city would make money on the space and advertisers could get there services out to the tourists that come through the city. Oh wait signs downtown are restricted in size. Does this art meet those restriction sizes?


The appearance of the new Main Street Ramp would not be improved by this garish display. If the artist's intention is for his artwork to "speak to the community," what is it saying and which community is he speaking to? Certainly not the majority of citizens of La Crosse, Wisconsin. This also brings into question the judgement of Council member Jacqueline Marcou, the La Crosse Arts Board, and the La Crosse Board of Public Works. Apparently they've learned nothing from the "Hatched Baby" fiasco.

Rick Czeczok

To the city leaders: Please stop getting talked into this stuff. All of these need to be maintained at a cost. Do we really need these plastered over buildings we just spent millions of dollars to make architecturally eye appealing?
Mayor, stop wasting our money!!!!


This looks like a cartoon and certainly doesn't fit in with our beautiful downtown. What is so wrong about a smooth exterior? This "cartoon" is tacky. No need for more murals.

let it go

I think not fitting into the scheme of the downtown area's historical nature is the best reason not to have it. Unless you can have a mural that is more historically based, there should not be one.

let it go

I agree that this is not needed and I fear that it will offend someone and need to be painted over. How does anyone get helping hands from this? It is a waste of money and will in a short time have to be touched up. One good hail storm, accident or vandal and this painting is shot.

Buggs Raplin

It's an incredibly boring thing. Typical of much modern art. I'm thinking of the people who live here every day having to see it, and the tourists who frequent this fair city wondering what the hell is going on.


Chippy prefers the Big Indian as "fine art."


Poor choice

Buena Vista

I'd rather not see something like this at all, but if it has to be, can the artist at least make the the subjects white and not black or red?


Who is paying for this debacle? The taxpayers now or when it needs to be repaired or removed? The management (council/mayor/department heads) of La Crosse would be better handled by an elementary school class.


I vote no, for what it's worth.


I thought there are laws against defacing public property!
I would think this is border line racist with a red man standing on 2 black men.


The actual color palette is featured in the second picture, the one with blue face.

El Duderino

Lol, allcav, who knows? Next, like the snowflake dopes in Madison, they’ll put complimentary storage lockers for the homeless in the ramps.


Two black faces and one red? What's that message? And why is this needed anyway?


The actual color scheme is detailed in the second image feature, the one that includes a blue face.


Both the red and blue faces seem to be on brown bodies, though. And, at first glance (before I read the story or realized they were supposed to be people), the design reminded me of the game Barrel of Monkeys. (The plastic monkeys in that were primary colors. But the design reminds me of the way they were linked together.) It's as if the Arts Board listened to people's concerns about the "Big Indian" statue and then collectively said, "Hold my beer..." I hope they rethink the color choices - maybe go all-out-whimsical and use colors that don't represent actual human beings. The mural is a fun idea, but they should give it a little more thought before it becomes a permanent fixture.

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