Montgomery history is literally being made in a local warehouse, and the result will be a 40-foot mural capturing various elements of the Kolacky Capital.
As one of several grantees in the 2019 Paint the Town Grant, a program developed through a partnership between the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) and 14 Ace Hardware stores, Montgomery will receive 25 gallons of paint to repair a Main Street mural near Franke’s Bakery. A grant from the Prairie Lakes Regional Art Council and community donations have also made the restoration project possible.
Victor Garcia, a retired painter who lived in Montgomery for 18 years before moving to his current home in Belle Plaine, is eager to apply paint to the mural after drawing it for seven months.
“Once I get started, I’m lost [in the painting process],” said Garcia. “I don’t know what time or day it is … It doesn’t even feel like a job.”
Using a grease pencil that disappears with the use of paint, Garcia used a combination of freehand drawing and projected images to complete the job so far. Per request of the Arts and Heritage Committee, Garcia wants to finish the project before Kolacky Days 2020.
Garcia is familiar with the mural; he painted the original 25 years ago. Using the same boards, he had to chip away at the original paint job to access the smooth surface this time around. It was a bittersweet process, he said, but he’s happy to improve a project he started over two decades ago.
“I kept it pretty much the same, but I added life to it, like people and birds,” said Garcia.
Once it’s complete, the mural will depict a Main Street scene of Montgomery in the 1900s. Garcia plans to use a pen and ink drawing technique to give the buildings a black and white photograph effect, but he’ll use colored paint for the lettering, border and different elements of the landscape.
The original mural, which was funded by the Prairie Lakes Rural Arts Council as well as the former Mobilize Montgomery group, depicted about half of the scene the new mural will showcase. The Arts and Heritage Committee gave Garcia old photographs of Main Street, Montgomery, so he knew how to draw the other half of the street. The full scene includes Westerman Lumber and the Pizzeria 201 building.
Garcia drew the words “Montgomery” and “Kolacky Capital” above the street scene and also incorporated Czech and Montgomery historical icons and nature elements into the border. Similar to a game of “I Spy,” the mural will invite admirers to find the Green Giant, church steeples, dragonflies and the former Red Bird mascot. He’ll also paint a Czech flag, an American flag, and a listing of all the mural sponsors.
Inside oval shapes near each of the four mural corners, Garcia was asked to paint even more pieces of Montgomery’s history and culture. One oval will include a log cabin, another will show the old Montgomery firehouse, a third will contain a steam engine, and the last will depict the Kolacky Queen candidates holding a tray of kolackys.
Garcia said everyone on the Arts and Heritage Board and the Montgomery Area Community Club Board have been instrumental in making the mural update possible, particularly Susan Hayes, Maureen Gunderson and Wade Young. He’s also grateful that Ron Kocina donated the warehouse space for painting the mural.
Since the Paint the Town Grant requires community participation in projects, Hayes said the Arts and Heritage Board has invited community members as well as art students from Tri-City United High School to add a few touches of paint to the mural once that process begins.
“We’re so happy with the response from the people in town wanting to help,” said Hayes, a member of the Arts and Heritage Board. “It’s really been a fun project to work on.”
Added Gunderson, also on the Arts and Heritage Board: “It’s going to be exciting because I love what Victor’s done so far, and everyone’s really happy with the addition to what was there before.”