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Painting the town: Shelbyville celebrates its quality of life with art on downtown buildings
Herald & Review/Kelly J. Huff
As the snow begins to fall in downtown Shelbyville, retired art teachers Carol Kessler and Dan Modzelewski are busy thinking of summer scenes to be apainted and attached to building. The duo have been painting aluminum panels and erecting them around town as part of the "Quality of Life in a Small Town' theme.
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SHELBYVILLE - Longtime residents of this rural community know what small-town life is all about.

Now motorists passing through Shelbyville's business district are getting a glimpse of small-town life, too.

Retired art teachers Carol Kessler and Dan Modzelewski have decorated the sides of buildings up and down Main Street with depictions of the quality of life that many in Shelbyville cherish.

"We wanted to give it a hometown theme where local people tell their story through our paintings," Modzelewski said.

Under the skill of the artists' brushes, sides of historical downtown buildings become monuments celebrating the everyday life of residents.

A gardener tends a garden in a miniature downtown park.

Buildings have scenes of a paperboy on his route, a young girl flying a kite, curious children gathered around a trash can, and families going on a bike ride.

A young boy, with a bible propped under his arm, gazes at a downtown church in a depiction titled "Our Awesome God."

Some depictions are geared toward a business - floor workers prepare for a day of work outside Allred's Floor Service Co. A family carries out an order from Monical's Pizza. Moviegoers, snacks in hand, file into Boarman's Roxy Theatre.

"A lot of times it depends on the patron, what they want," Kessler said.

Jay Allred is pleased with the depiction affixed to the front of his floor service business.

Allred's business is located a block off the Main Street business district. And the past-president of the Greater Shelbyville Chamber of Commerce is hopeful the artwork will spread throughout the community.

"It's certainly going to be an eye-catcher," Allred said.

The artwork complements efforts by the Chamber to revitalize the downtown area, Allred said.

"We've talked about a lot of different things," Allred said. "The Chamber is working on banners and some benches. The murals go hand-in-hand with the improvement of the community."

The artworks typically cost about $500 each, which largely pays for supplies, Kessler said.

"We're volunteers," Kessler said.

The depictions often celebrate the town's community spirit.

"To me, this town is famous for volunteerism," Modzelewski said. "There are people who go above and beyond the line of duty here."

The artists work virtually year-round painting the scenes at their homes. The painting enthusiasts are using a new canvas and paints for the life-sized displays.

"It's a learning process," Kessler said.

Kessler uses an oil-based paint made for outdoor signs. Modzelewski uses a water-based paint designed for water towers and outsides of buildings.

They paint the works on aluminum sheets, which are affixed to the sides of buildings.

"We're using materials that are very tough and very strong to withstand the weather," Modzelewski said.

Future projects could include a tribute to military veterans, a depiction of water safety for the new aquatic center, and scenes of recreation at Lake Shelbyville.

"It's a team effort," Modzelewski said. "It's the people, it's the patrons, it's the artists. I just get a kick out of bringing a smile to somebody's face when they walk through town."

Kessler agreed.

"It's nice to hear people talk about art," Kessler said. "It's rewarding for us because we're able to do what we love to do."


Carol Kessler and Dan Modzelewski paint depictions of small town life. For more information or to commission an artwork, call 774-5318 or 774-1521.

Mike Frazier can be reached at or 421-7985.

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