Debbie Hardy, front left, Chris Isherwood, Edgar Hansen, David Carpenter, Justin Baldwin, Jorge Tello, John Kuehn, Bobby Jagemann, Erin LaBonte, Scott Remaker, Mayor Justin Nickels and Vinny the dog are shown in front of the Red Arrow Mural.
By Amy Hanson, Assistant Director of Communications and Web Management
History makes the present possible. It is through the preservation of past milestones — big and small — that we have a record of time to remind us of where we come from. For one group, that reflection included the creation of the Red Arrow Mural, the latest addition to efforts to acknowledge the significance of the United States 32nd Infantry Division at Red Arrow Park in Manitowoc.
The mural, measuring 30-35 feet in each direction, captures the likeness of Spc. 4th Class D.F. Hirsch of the 32nd Infantry, which became known as the Red Arrow Division and was formed from Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard Units that fought primarily during World War I and II. The project, which involved two Silver Lake College art faculty members and an alum, can be seen on the side of the old Richter Vinegar Plant at 1819 S. 9th St.
“What’s really exciting about this project is that everyone I contacted wanted to participate,” said Erin LaBonte, Assistant Professor of Art at Silver Lake College. “Somehow, all the pieces fell together perfectly and I couldn’t be more pleased to say that we had the perfect team. This has been an awesome experience. I am grateful to live in a city that promotes the arts, and I look forward to working on more projects like this.”
Jon Kuehn, owner of the building, learned that Erin was planning to create a mural in the City of Manitowoc and that she had three contenders for her next project. He wanted his property to be “the building” and not just a contender, he said.
“I think art raises our expectations of life,” John said, adding that works of art are something to cherish. “I think that’s what this (the mural) is doing. It’s allowing all of us in the neighborhood and the community to come up and raise up. … That is the beauty of art, that kind of social experience.”
“I’m just so glad to be a part of it and thankful to Erin for the idea,” he said.
The inspiration for the mural came from a photograph taken by a military photographer in May 1962 at the Yakima Firing Center at Fort Lewis in Washington. Edgar “Ed” Hansen, a ’84, '97 MS Silver Lake College alum, working to bring more historical elements to Red Arrow Park contacted military public affairs to get clearance to use the black and white military image for the mural, which falls into the public domain. The coloration for the artwork was changed to sepia-type, almost greenish, hues to complement the brick of the building, Erin explained.
While the mural took about a week to paint, it also meant planning, working with the City of Manitowoc, power washing the building, projecting the image and working both day and night to get the job done.
“We’ve got the benefit of this beautiful mural because there’s the park,” said Ed gesturing from the building over to the playground area. “The mural, I just love it. It helps tell the story of Red Arrow because it’s been forgotten over time.” Ed has been working to find the soldier featured in the mural, the photographer and surviving members of the 32nd Infantry Division. It is his hope to gather a group of soldiers in the near future to take a new historical photograph in front of the mural.
David Carpenter, an adjunct art faculty member at Silver Lake College, also lent his talents to the mural, along with the Farmers’ Market Mural in downtown Manitowoc. This was his first time, however, on a lift to create art.
“It was in the name of art,” Erin joked as David chuckled.
“I don’t know that there’s specifically a part (of the mural) that was one of us,” David shared. “Sometimes it’s like group projects in school, you never know how it’s going to go, but this turned out very well.”
Artist Justin Baldwin and others also contributed to the mural. The City of Manitowoc provided a grant to create the public art.
“It is cool. It sticks out,” said Mayor Justin Nickels, also a Silver Lake College student. “Everyone can see the military individual. Red Arrow Park actually has meaning.”
“Some people had no idea why the park is named, ‘Red Arrow.’ It was fun to be able to share the story of the 32nd Infantry with them. It brings new meaning to the space and reminds people or teaches them for the first time about its history,” Erin added.
The mural will still need a protective coat to guard against outdoor elements and possible graffiti, but is otherwise complete. The artists also intend to add their signatures. They would like to extend a special thank you to Gus and Jason at Hallman/Lindsay Paints, Late’s and the countless individuals who offered water, food, well wishes and stories during the process.
Ed is continuing to raise funds for Red Arrow Park projects. Those who are interested in sharing a gift may call the Friends of Red Arrow at 920-684-477.