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Amy Rankin and Michelle Stephens soon plan to cover the wall at 151 W. Wood St. with a new mural as part of the Decatur Area Arts Council's mural project.

DECATUR — Local artists Amy Rankin and Michelle Stephens are beginning work this weekend on a mural depicting vintage train wheels on the exterior wall of 151 W. Wood St., the home of Millikin University's wrestling facilities.

"It's so exciting to add to the landscape of Decatur," Stephens said. "We're taught our whole lives that drawing on walls is wrong. Even when we know we've got permission, there's something thrilling about it."

That signal to move forward came from the Decatur Area Arts Council's mural project, an initiative in place since 2012. The train-themed work, titled "Unstoppable," is the second work the Arts Council has commissioned this summer.

"We're hoping to get a third one done this summer, but we're still trying to find an artist's design (that matches) with the building owner's preferences," said Jerry Johnson, executive director of the Arts Council.

The artists will be working on the painting through the weekend of the Decatur Celebration, so more interested residents can get a look at the process.

"It's not within the Decatur Celebration (perimeters) ... but it's still a downtown location and we thought it might be of interest to people who were are coming downtown for the Celebration anyway," Johnson said.
Rankin and Stephens have been working together as artists since 2008. Stephens said they've both wanted to participate in the Arts Council's mural project since it began.
The railroad theme of the mural, Stephens said, is meant to recognize Decatur's industrial legacy and its relationship to the railroads.
"The wall of the Millikin Wrestling building is really unique," she said. "It's close to the ground, and very wide. The design needed to fit into that space."
The Decatur Mural Project began in five years ago with an image of Commodore Stephen Decatur looming over downtown on the side of Central Illinois Title Co. building at 145 S. Water St. Since then, mural subjects have ranged from Bob Marley to the history of the Chicago Bears to an orange elephant with butterfly wings.

Contact Tom Lisi at (217) 421-6949. Follow him on Twitter: @tommylisi


Decatur Reporter

Decatur reporter for the Herald & Review.

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