A sketch of the “Welcome to His­toric Hillsdale” mural, coming in Sep­tember 2020. The mural is a project of the Her­itage Asso­ci­ation of Hillsdale, Michigan. Courtesy | Connie Sexton

The City of Hillsdale will get a scenic upgrade to its downtown wedge with The Her­itage Association’s current beau­ti­fi­cation project. 

Coming in Sep­tember of 2020, a 10-by-40 foot mural with the words “Welcome to His­toric Hillsdale” will be painted on the upper side of Moore Insurance and above Hillsdale Jew­elers. 

The project began when Richard Moore, owner of Moore Insurance, con­tacted the Her­itage Asso­ci­ation about the exposed wall on the side of the insurance building.

“Rich Moore approached me and said, ‘You know I’ve got this side of this wall, and I’ll fix the bricks that are popping up if you’d like to put some­thing up there,’” co-founder of The Her­itage Asso­ci­ation Heather Tritchka ’98 said. 

Moore’s offer came at a perfect time for Tritchka, as the Asso­ci­ation was looking for its 2020 project. 

According to its website, the Her­itage Asso­ci­ation is a 501(c)(3) non­profit orga­ni­zation that exists to create visual art across the city so as to “reflect the his­torical, cul­tural, and natural her­itage of Hillsdale County.” This latest mural project fits its vision. 

After obtaining a permit from the City of Hillsdale, Tritchka worked with muralist John Castelles on designing the mural. She wanted to base the mural off the other “Welcome to His­toric Hillsdale” signs Hillsdale College has placed throughout the city. 

“I got the idea to make it some­thing that kind of pulls those signs in and labels the downtown area as a his­torical interest point,” Tritchka said. “Instead of a picture that might be a little dated, I wanted to have wording with a little bit of scenery rolling in behind it like the hills and dales to make it a little more timeless and fit everybody.” 

After final­izing the design, Tritchka’s fellow co-founder Connie Sexton, con­tacted muralist Wes Hardin to paint the mural. Hardin is no stranger to Hillsdale. He painted the train mural in downtown. 

“I don’t even have a style that you could call mine,” Hardin said. “I’m not after trying to make a name for me. I do enjoy the work, I enjoy the process. I’m very grateful for the oppor­tunity. In fact, I love working for the people in Michigan, they were absolutely amazing. They went over and beyond to accom­modate the artist.”

Hardin said the main focus for the association’s mural is vis­i­bility. 

“Obvi­ously our goal is to make sure it’s visible,” he said. “And for being so far away, being a mural that’s on top of a building, you won’t have access to it as someone in the public. We want to make sure that every­thing reads really well from a dis­tance.” 

Hardin has been painting murals for 45 years. He said the most important thing to focus on with murals is sto­ry­telling. 

“What I’m trying to do as a designer and artist is ask, ‘What is the best way to activate the space to accom­plish my client’s goal? What’s the story they want to tell?’ What’s important, espe­cially in mural art, is sto­ry­telling. It’s very sim­plified,” he said. 

The Her­itage Asso­ci­ation wanted a straight­forward design, which Hardin said makes his job easy.

“They wanted some­thing dec­o­rative that would say ‘Welcome to the City of Hillsdale.’ They’ve got a great location for it,” Hardin said.“We already know how much space is available. Then I go in and start to sketch ideas in scale pro­por­tionate to the space.” 

After much back-and-forth with the design and logistics, Hardin set the date to  start painting in Sep­tember. 

“It’s hard to get this done. It’s not cheap. There’s all the logistics. It’s really nothing to do with the artists and every­thing to do with the com­mittee and city,” Hardin said. “I’m just lucky to be the one that gets to come back and work with them.” 

The ultimate goal for the mural, Tritchka said, is to beautify the city. 

“We’re trying to bring more artwork to Hillsdale,” Tritchka said. “I’m from Cal­i­fornia orig­i­nally, so I’m used to seeing a little more artwork and statues and dif­ferent things to beautify downtown. We’re trying to bring that to Hillsdale. There’s a lot of projects going on to improve downtown. It’s time to start bringing in more artwork to make the city look a little nicer and more inter­esting.” 

The Her­itage Asso­ci­ation is still taking dona­tions for the His­toric Hillsdale mural project. Those inter­ested can message the asso­ci­ation on its Facebook page or donate through their website at