The 10-year-old “Return to Splendor” mural near Coney’s and Swirls will undergo art restorations overseen by The Hillsdale Heritage Association.
Laura Smith, a resident of Hillsdale for the past 20 years, co-founded the Ladies of Beautification League with fellow Hillsdale mothers Jaminda Springer and Allison Hutchinson. The LBL’s goal is to bring the community together with projects to encourage economic development and celebrate the rich history of Hillsdale.
“Return to Splendor” was the first mural completed by the LBL. Through their Hillsdale Community Mural Project, they also spearheaded the mural at Field of Dreams and the railroad mural on the Board of Realtors’ building.
“We loved the name because it was our first project to help Hillsdale return to the splendor that it was: a historic, beautiful town,” Smith said.
Smith said that projects like this tend to have a ripple effect in the community.
“Public art helps to ignite economic development. You want to help restring all the pearls together in town, so after the mural went up it was exciting to see a lot of the buildings and facades get restored downtown,” Smith said. “There’s been a whole renaissance down in that area over the past decade.”
Murals like “Return to Splendor” have a longevity of about 50 years, Smith said, which is why the mural needs its first round of renovations. Smith said murals painted on brick tend to accumulate water behind the brick and require restoration about every 10 years.
While the original artist of “Return to Splendor” Mary Thiefels was unable to perform the restorations, artist Wes Hardin will restore the mural while he is in Hillsdale painting another mural, Smith said.
Connie Sexton, Hillsdale resident since 2006, belongs to 10 organizations in Hillsdale and is a co-founder of THA. She was a member of LBL until it disbanded 5 years ago, though Smith said the LBL fund is currently providing donations to cover the cost of renovations and future projects.
Sexton said that while funding, creating, and restoring murals is a large focus of THA, the overall goal of the organization is much larger.
“By exploring Hillsdale’s past, THA hopes to educate and preserve Hillsdale’s heritage for the present and future generations to enjoy with beautiful visual reminders,” she said.
In addition to the murals, THA has also commissioned sculptures that celebrate Hillsdale history. “In 2017 we brought to Hillsdale County the Winona bronze statue [at Mrs. Stock’s Park] and in 2019 the Mama Bear and her cubs bronze statues [located on the Baw beese walking trail]” Sexton said. “Heather Tritchka was the sculptor of both.”
THA has plans for the future of Hillsdale, according to Sexton.
“We are raising funds now to bring a 10′ x 64′ mural to Jonesville which will be a picturesque mural of the history of the Old Sauk Trail,” Sexton said. “If fundraising goes well, the earliest we plan to unveil that mural is in late fall of 2022, but if not, then hopefully Spring of 2023.”