Painting the Past

Painting the Past

A group of artists celebrates Delavan’s rich history with colorful murals
By Shelby Deering

I grew up near Delavan, Wis. When I was young, I remember it being a vibrant downtown filled with quaint shops and brightly painted statues that represented the town’s storied past as the birthplace of P.T. Barnum’s circus.

Although there are still many charming places to visit downtown, the area seems to have lost a bit of its color and life over the years—until now.

Starting June 24, a pack of artists called the Walldogs (who say their name reflects how they cling to walls from their scaffolds and work like dogs) will infuse some color into Delavan once again through vivid murals depicting the community’s history.

Made up of over 200 artists from all over the country, the group has already breathed new life into towns like Waukesha and Belvidere, Ill. Other than creative expression, what motivates the Walldogs to create these murals?

Brad and Kit Bandow are artists from nearby Elkhorn who are at the helm of the Delavan project. Kit explains, “The idea is to restore pride in the town and generate tourism.”

Community members petitioned the group for the project, explaining on its Walldogs website that the construction of Interstate 43 (completed in 1981) on the city’s southeast side prompted chain stores to move in and some local business to relocate to the highway corridor. When traffic and local business trade downtown declined, the city withered a bit. It’s hoped that the Walldogs’ murals will help make downtown Delavan a destination again.

The excitement in town is palpable. Linda Siert, a one-time downtown store owner, says, “At the time I closed my store, my prayer was that someone who had the resources would take an interest in this town I have lived in nearly all of my 71 years and help bring it back to life. I get teary-eyed each time I think about it, that I am seeing my dream come true for this town that I love so dearly.”

Watch the Walldogs paint June 24–28, and visit food carts, take in live music, including a Walldogs jam session, and participate in a live auction. Walk the historic brick streets and browse the wares at Lauren’s Antique & Art Center and Remember When.

Sample local, artisanal cheese and beer at Brick Street Market. For dinner, eat at Sweet Aroma Ristorante, which has some of the best Italian around and is just a hop, skip and a jump from the downtown area.

Stay at Main Street Manor bed and breakfast, a Delavan landmark. The stately house was built in the 1850s and was one of Delavan’s earliest homes.

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