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By DAVE HINTON
Rantoul Press editor
An organizer of an exploratory effort to determine if the Walldogs group should be contracted to create art in Rantoul said she hopes to call a second meeting in January.
Paula Hopkins of the Rantoul Business Group said she hopes to get village officials to attend the meeting.
Hopkins said she was disappointed by the turnout at a recent meeting at which a Walldogs official explained how the process works. Eight people attended the meeting.
“I thought some of the (village) board members would come,” Hopkins said.
Still, that was a better turnout than some Walldogs kickoff meetings. Walldogs representative Scott “Cornbread” Lindley told the group that in Danville, for instance, only three people showed up. That community went on to stage a successful Walldogs campaign.
The key is conducting successful fundraisers to pay for the Walldogs — a group of more than 300 international artists — to come and paint murals.
“I’m not saying we need $30,000 or whatever,” Hopkins said. “If we could start with two or three murals, I think that would be such an asset.”
The Walldogs have painted murals in small towns across America in a joint effort with the community, to bring pride and business back into their towns.
The key is to bring people to town — in this case notably downtown.
Lindley said the communities where the Walldogs have painted murals have benefitted in several ways. They not only improved the appearance, they also upgraded the community’s self image. He said in Danville the townspeople got together to clean up downtown by repainting storefronts and sweeping the sidewalks in preparation of the event.
If the murals are painted, it will benefit the community in the short term and the long term.
“There are people who call the Walldogs and want a map of all the different towns to go around to,” Hopkins said.
“The camaraderie and everything that happens is amazing,” said Hopkins, who operates A House of Flowers in downtown Rantoul.
Hopkins said she would like to start a committee to plan fundraisers. Anyone interested in serving on a committee may contact Hopkins at her business.
She said Lindley indicated the Walldogs will do murals ranging from $5,000-$60,000.
When the Walldogs are contracted to come into a community, the first thing Lindley asks is that the town provide 10 stories about the community. The Walldogs then choose which ones to depict.
Hopkins doesn’t believe that will be a problem.
“We have so much history from Rantoul. I think we could do 10 murals easy,” Hopkins said.
Amanda Briggs, Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, was one of those who attended the initial Walldogs meeting.
Among the concerns was that the Walldogs effort does not interfere with an ongoing Community Experience Plan (CEP) project spearheaded by Taylor Studios to boost Rantoul.
Briggs said she hopes that if the Walldogs effort proceeds, it will be a collaborative effort with the CEP. She said she spoke with Pete Salmon, project manager for the CEP, to let him know that the Walldogs meeting had been held.
Taylor Studios explains the CEP as a means of enhancing “a community’s brand by revealing the community’s unique story and recommending methods to communicate that story to visitors as well as residents.”
Briggs said she liked the Walldogs idea.
“I like the concept. I like the idea,” she said. “Now it’s just deciding if it will be a good fit for Rantoul or not.”
She said she will discuss the idea at a future chamber of commerce board meeting.