Murals help make downtown Janesville a destination
‘It does become an attraction’: Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau invites mural artists back to Art Infusion Week for the second year.
JANESVILLE, Wis. (WMTV) - For the second year in a row, mural artists are back in Janesville for the annual Art Infusion week, run by the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. In 2020, the city added murals for the first time.
There are five murals being painted around downtown this year, on top of several from 2020, and people area already coming by to admire them. Christine Rebout, executive director of the Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the public art installations help attract people to the downtown area.
“They’re accessible for anyone, no matter what your age or abilities,” she explained, continuing, “It’s something that brings people downtown. While they’re here, they’re going to eat, they’re going to shop, they’re going to spend money.”
The murals have brought in tourism from across the state, not just the Rock County area.
“We had a couple that lives in Milwaukee that came here from Jordan and followed one particular artist, Nathan Brown, and came to see his work,” Rebout said.
The art is making the city’s downtown even more of a destination.
“We’ve seen senior portraits here, we’ve seen wedding portraits here,” Rebout described.
Tour guide Rich Fletcher added, “There’s a new energy here that people are really interested in.”
Fletcher owns Roam Around Tours and leads walking tours around Janesville, highlighting history, architecture and the art.
“I research the artists and the subject matter, and it all has meaning, and I help interpret that,” he explained.
Fletcher and Rebout said many of the murals around the city showcase the area’s history and diversity.
“The mural behind us is all animals that are native to the area,” said Rebout of a mural on the side of the Rock River Charter School.
“That really shows people maybe that get overlooked in our culture,” Fletcher said of a pair of murals installed earlier.
One mural, installed as part of Art Infusion 2020, gives a nod to the city’s role in the Underground Railroad, with a small portrait of Harriet Tubman. Another by the same artist honors indigenous history.
“They wanted to learn about Black Hawk, and you can just point to him right there, and that’s very much ingrained in our local history,” Fletcher said.
Over 10 years of tours, Fletcher has seen downtown Janesville grow and attract more and more people.
“Friends, family, they bring their pets and they all come down to the farmers’ market and our night markets and all these events, and it’s great to see so many people downtown again,” he described.
The murals, he said, just “add another level” to the history and culture of the city.
Art Infusion week wraps up Sunday with chalk drawing contests. On Saturday, Fletcher is leading a walking tour highlighting the new art installations, which starts at 2 p.m. at the Heritage Bridge.
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