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DECATUR ART
MAN ON A MURAL MISSION

MacArthur, Millikin grad makes blank building walls into massive murals 🎨

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DECATUR — An artist is working to beautify Decatur one wall at a time. Eric Weatherford is the owner of Oddwall Painting, which came on the scene earlier this year.

Murals that keep popping up around town are Weatherford’s largest contribution to the art community in terms of size. The goal, he said, is to make his hometown more beautiful.

“A little bit of paint goes a long way, and it is such an effective way to bring life to any building,” he said. “The final project is so dramatic, and it is just a positive thing.”

Weatherford specializes in interior and exterior murals as well as specialty painting. His mural career began last summer when he won the Decatur Mural Project, sponsored by the Decatur Area Arts Council. An artist is commissioned to paint a mural on a building identified as needing a face-lift. 

Weatherford's first work is on Garcia’s Pizza in the 1000 block of West Main Street and depicts a whimsical scene of a person, apparently free-falling or floating, with a monitor for a head. 

Next, he painted on the inside of Local’s 101 Bar and Grille in downtown Decatur, which is now closed, and then at Wethington's Fresh Flowers on Oakland Avenue. He also did a Pabst Blue Ribbon sponsored mural at Donnie’s Homespun Pizza.

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Eric Weatherford works on a mural on one of the buildings at Miracle Valley Plaza in Decatur. “A little bit of paint goes a long way, and it is such an effective way to bring life to any building,” he says. 

“I am putting a canvas painting on a wall for everybody to see and some of it is inspired by everyday life,” he said. “It is great of course. (I’m) beautifying my hometown and people are super on board with it.”

Over the winter, he decided to make it official and start a business. Already this year, he has more projects in the works.

“I started to see a demand for it,” he said. “It is a win-win. I am doing what I love.”

Weatherford grew up in Decatur and graduated from MacArthur High School. He got a studio art degree from Millikin University in 2014.

People will contact Weatherford and discuss their ideas and desires for a mural. Then, he sketches out an idea and a plan for them to approve. The cost depends on the size and type of mural.

The next step is to plan the design. Weatherford said he uses a computer program to project the design unto a picture of the wall where it will be painted to show people what the finished project will look like, he said.

“Some people know exactly what they want and so we go back and forth with designs until we get it right and some people give me free range of what to do,” he said.

Decatur's 6 murals 

Murals are making a splash in European cities and other large cities around the United States such as Nashville, which Weatherford visited recently. Weatherford said he is inspired by some of the projects they complete like murals that are five stories high.

The Decatur Area Arts Council is also contributing paintings to the community. Since 2013, the organization has commissioned six murals, said Executive Director Jerry Johnson. The plan is to promote visual arts throughout town, he said.

“It is pretty much just beautifying the city and demonstrating to the people who live here and visit that Decatur cares about art,” he said. “And we are good at it.”

The public reaction has been positive as well, he said.

“It’s fun, and everybody likes to see something fun and beautiful or interesting in their everyday life and having these around the community give us that,” he said.

The council plans to complete two or three murals during the 2018 season. The first one will be in the 200 block of East Williams Street, facing Doherty’s Pub.

“We find a building that we think would be a great position for a mural and then we put out a call for artists to submit designs,” he said.

'A little bit of heaven'

Weatherford said some of his murals are about making the building or wall look prettier, while others are about a message, he said. For example, the most recent mural was based on a religious idea that the owner wanted to portray.

Dennis Lyles, owner of Miracle Valley Plaza, a project at East Wood and South Maffit streets, commissioned the painting for the side of the building. He wanted something subtle that would make people stop and think.

“What I wanted to do was bring a little bit of heaven to the south-central part of Decatur,” he said.

Lyles said he presented his idea to Weatherford who performed research to make sure everything was exactly right with the painting, which is based on Revelations 22 from the Bible.

“I shared with him the idea, and he just ran with it,” Lyles said. “He did a really good job.”

The mural shows a heavenly landscape on top of the 12 foundations of the New Jerusalem, which is also known by Christians as heaven. The 12 layers are painted with bright colors to symbolize stones and crystals that are thought to be the foundation of the holy city.

“(Lyles) wanted something that would really pop and catch the people’s eyes driving by it,” Weatherford said.

So far, it's working, he said.

“This one surprised me. It was the most love I’ve received,” he said. “It was nothing but positivity.”

The group of buildings known as Miracle Valley Plaza is still in the beginning stages, Lyles said. He hopes to create something good for the community that can help people improve their lives, he said.

They are thinking about bringing in a barber shop and maybe a sewing school. Lyles also plans on opening a farmer’s market with food trucks, he said.

“We are open for things that are going to advance the community and help people," he said.

But he does have one for sure plan: He wants to commission another mural at the plaza.

“We want to bring something beautiful to the community," he said, "and bring the presence of God into the community." 

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Contact Claire Hettinger at (217) 421-6985. Follow her on Twitter: @ClaireHettinger

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Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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