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 https://www.theheritageassociation.org.