DECATUR — As he ascended 30 feet in a scissors lift to bring Decatur’s heroic namesake to its downtown, Jerry Johnson was drawing on some courage himself.

He isn’t the biggest fan of heights.

But the executive director of the Decatur Area Arts Council overcame any reservations as he continued on the second day of painting a mural of Stephen Decatur on Central Illinois Title Co. at 145 S. Water St. The mural is the first of what organizers are calling the Decatur Mural Project, with the hope that other artists and building owners can forge similar aesthetically pleasing partnerships.

“It is kind of scary when you’re all the way at the top,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “... I don’t look down. And once you start focusing on the work, you’re not as distracted by it.”

The mural depicts Commodore Stephen Decatur leading the 1804 raid to burn a ship, the USS Philadelphia, that had been captured by pirates in Tripoli. It features the words “bold and daring,” which a British admiral used to describe Decatur’s actions.

Johnson’s design was chosen by Central Illinois Title Co. and the building owner, Main Place Properties.

The design is simple and only uses four colors: Black Gesso, Indian Yellow, Quinacridone Red and a mixture of Cerulean Blue Hue and Phthalo Turquoise. The paint was donated by the Sherwin-Williams store on North Water Street.

Johnson, who volunteered his time for the project, hopes the mural will help encourage people to learn more about Stephen Decatur.

“They may realize that it’s Stephen Decatur, but think a little bit more about ... why our city was named after him; maybe explore a little bit more about him and learn why we should be proud that we’re named Decatur,” Johnson said. “The ‘bold and daring’ not only relates to Stephen Decatur, but those are good words, I think, for Decatur (residents) to see on a regular basis and think about.”

After two men volunteered to paint the white base coat on the building, Johnson drew the outline of the mural with a carpenter’s pencil Thursday night from a projection.

He worked all day Friday and Saturday to complete it, with just a few finishing touches remaining for today.

Later in the afternoon Saturday, he got some help from Flora Gems manager Mark Fandel. The two, who attended high school together in Argenta, had recently talked about Stephen Decatur and the statue in front of the Decatur Civic Center.

When Fandel heard that Johnson would memorialize the commodore in the mural, he wanted to help. “I park in this parking lot every day,” he said.

Further information is available at www.decaturarts.org/murals.

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