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Helping Hands

Work on a La Crosse Arts Board commissioned mural, "Helping Hands" by Landon Sheely, is underway on the north wall of the Main Street parking ramp.

The idea behind Landon Sheely’s mural “Helping Hands” is simple: community.

“We are what we have. It’s just helping each other out,” Sheely said.

The La Crosse-based artist is spending this week painting the mural, which depicts three figures helping each other up, on the south wall of the Main Street parking ramp, where it’s clearly visible to anyone driving down Third Street. He was commissioned by the La Crosse Arts Board to create the new downtown mural as part of a larger effort to support public art and the local artist community.

Sheely started “Helping Hands” by drawing out a concept, then scaling it larger to take up the entire 42-foot-tall concrete slab, which faces State Street where it intersects with Third. It takes a certain amount of math to translate the smaller drawing into its larger form, but that’s been one of Sheely’s favorite parts so far.

“I never liked math, but then you put it in this practical form. Then it’s fun. I like the puzzle of it,” Sheely said.

After getting the space primed, Sheely spent Monday and Tuesday putting up a grid of two-foot squares with red chalk, which was a challenge at times since the ground slants downhill toward the river and he had to make sure his lines are perfectly straight, vertically and horizontally.

“The idea is that it lines up at the end,” Sheely said.

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Helping Hands

La Crosse artist Landon Sheely paints his 42-foot high "Helping Hands" mural Wednesday at the Main Street parking ramp.

“Helping Hands” isn’t Sheely’s first mural. He also painted the alley behind the Root Note as well as a mural at an Eau Claire music festival. However, it has been different from his other work, partly because it’s on behalf of the city and partly because it’s such a busy street.

“I didn’t realize how well-traveled it was until I was out here,” Sheely said.

Working on it has been an interesting experience so far, Sheely said, not only as people stop by to ask what he’s doing and how the painting is going, but also because he’s so high in the air. The sidewalk is blocked off on either side, and the city rented a scissor lift to get him up to the top of the ramp.

“Anytime I have to see the whole picture, I’ve got to come all the way down,” Sheely said.

Despite that, the scissor lift is really nice, he said, and he’s got a good head for heights.

“You’re against the wall the whole time, so I’m good,” Sheely said.

While the actual painting is just getting started, the project as a whole started late last year after La Crosse Common Council member Jacqueline Marcou visited Willy Street in Madison, which has several murals for people to enjoy as they walk by. A mural on a concrete surface similar to that of the parking ramp called “Try a Little Tenderness,” inspired by the famous lyric sung by Otis Redding, was what finally pushed her to bring more public art to her home city.

“Art is beautiful to look at. It sparks conversation. It cultivates community,” Marcou said.

Marcou brought up the idea to Sheely, as well as the city’s Arts Board and Board of Public Works, which governs the city’s parking ramps and approved using the space for art in January. Marcou and the Arts Board decided the side of the parking ramp made a good place to test the waters.

“We were trying to make the process as simple and as time-efficient as we could so we could get it going,” said Doug Weidenbach, chair of the Arts Board.

Not only is the space city-owned, but it also is located on a busy intersection.

“It’s very visible if you’re coming into the downtown from the north. Once you’re in downtown, that wall is very prominent there,” Weidenbach said.

Most notably, however, it was just a big empty canvas, waiting for some decoration.

“The older parking ramps aren’t the most beautifully designed structures. We’re happy to pretty it up a bit,” Marcou said.

The move toward more public art isn’t all about beautifying downtown, although that does help, said Downtown Mainstreet Inc. executive director Robin Moses, who is also a member of the Arts Board.

“It’s really all about creating some interesting art in downtown. It can be very beneficial for economic vitality and just creating a more lively culture,” Moses said.

Tourists and La Crosse area residents come downtown for the culture, which includes art and other beautification projects just as much as restaurants and retail stores.

“I think that murals can demonstrate a lot of exciting, artistic, diverse things, which make a community more welcoming,” Moses said.

The Arts Board allocated $4,500 from its operating budget to the project, although Marcou doesn’t expect it to cost that much. Any money left over will be returned to the board, she said, to be reinvested in other public art projects.

Marcou also wants the city to sponsor more murals, possibly even setting aside $8,500 in the annual capital improvement project budget.

“In today’s world, if we can get a little public art to inspire people to look at the world in a different way, to make people smile, that’s a good thing,” Marcou said.

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Helping Hands sample

This mock-up of "Helping Hands" gives a general idea of what Landon Sheely's mural will look like when it's complete.

“Helping Hands” serves as a reminder to help one another out, which really speaks to Marcou, although, she acknowledged other people might not see it.

“It’s a nice reminder to people — hopefully — to lift each other up and not tear each other down. That’s what I like about it,” Marcou said.

Weidenbach echoed Marcou’s sentiment.

“I particularly like the idea of ‘helping hands.’ This idea that three characters on the mural are different people, yet they’re all coming together in this artistic sense of getting along,” Weidenbach said. “You have these three figures that are all different, but you have to come together to help each other out.”

The mural isn’t yet finished, but it’s already sparking imitation as Downtown Mainstreet has begun identifying other potential places for art downtown. Moses said the organization hopes to create opportunities for mural artists and property owners interested in adding a little color to their building to connect.

Other private entities on the city’s North Side and even in other communities within La Crosse County have approached the Arts Board for input on arranging more murals.

“Hopefully this first mural from the Arts Board will act as a catalyst for even more murals,” Weidenbach said.

Sheely was definitely happy to hear others are interested in creating more art.

“We have a bunch of good spots for it. I think we have a good community for it,” Sheely said.

He loves the idea of people stopping and snapping photos to share on social media or just with their friends.

“This is what art is for. I think it’s great,” Sheely said.


Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.

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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.

(19) comments

Rick Czeczok

Please take a picture of the brewery's 6 pack. Hardly iconic, more like an eyesore of mold and sun bleached. plastic. Come on brewery you're better then that.....

Cassandra2

Czercock, you promised on July 10 that you'd be leaving these pages. You lied again.

Rick Czeczok

Nice white base for graffiti. I'll give it a week...

Cassandra2

Czercock, you promised on July 10 that you'd be leaving these pages. You lied again.

Logged

If you really want to make downtown look nice get rid of all the bars and college kids. Bars also include all the “restaurants” that turn into a bar at night. I for one am not proud to be a city that is always on the top 10 for drunkest city’s in America.

Cassandra2

"GET OFFA MY LAWN!!!"

Logged

Looks like the stuff kid make at an elementary school.

WuTang

I’m getting the vibe from these comments that no one regularly goes to art museums, this is a fantastic mural that will inspire more art in the future and hopefully Landon gets more opportunities to paint other murals downtown because we need more color that’s not neon signs downtown!

Buggs Raplin

No, it's NOT a fantastic mural. I feel sorry for any artist inspired by it. Hopefully, no more of this 'art' will tarnish the city.-Chip DeNure

Cassandra2

The only public art Chippy would condone would be a giant bust of Alex Jones.

WuTang

Good85 where the heck were you when pischke bulldozed the war eagle mural? Instead of preserving history we get a parking lot!

Green85

Visitors to La Crosse are going to see it and say, "What the hell is that thing?"

I think we need a new Arts Council, stat.

good85

I don't like it. I think it takes away from the history of Downtown La Crosse. We are always saying we want to preserve history but then we do dumb stuff like this...why?

Only1Green

Cassandra's comment from 1/10: "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." Hilarious

Cassandra2

Thanks! I try to provide amusing insights from time to time.

markeugene

See previous January 10, 2018 article "Helping Hands mural to adorn downtown La Crosse parking ramp" and read the readers' comments then: https://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/helping-hands-mural-to-adorn-downtown-la-crosse-parking-ramp/article_acfa54e6-ef7c-580c-9169-fdea3811c425.html

Buggs Raplin

Community?

Logged

Forgot they still planned on doing this. Not digging it. Looks stupid.

allcav

It could be perfect if you put a blue baby at its base. Don't you think?

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