Art Lovers Flock To Rockford For CRE8IV Mural Festival

May 17, 2019

Artists are busy brightening surfaces around Rockford for the city's first CRE8IV mural festival. On this week's Friday Forum, we hear from one of the artists and learn about the festival's connection with bird lovers.

Artists are scattered around Rockford's downtown, putting their touches in alleyways on the sides of brick buildings. Well, make that nearly all of the artists.

You can find Rockford pop artist Lisa Frost painting under the Jefferson Street Bridge. 

Art in progress under the Jefferson Street Bridge by Lisa and Libbie Frost
Credit Jenna Dooley

"Under the bridge here, there are 42 columns," Frost explained. "And they essentially hold the upper bridge up. But what has happened is that this becomes a really cool space. It's kind of like a portal, from the inside of the city to the downtown."

It's a big job. The Frosts are getting help from the local painter's union 607.

The inspiration is to bring color to the columns in the space which provides an overflow to the Rockford City Market.

Lisa Frost says while she's been working in the area, she's noticed it's a popular destination as the backdrop for capturing memories.

"There's so many people who come to take pictures -- graduation pictures, bridal pictures, engagement pictures," she said.

Now her work will be part of those memories:

"How awesome is that!"

It's been a project for her family scrapbook as well. Her daughter Libbie Frost has been at her side. Lisa Frost says it's been an ambitious experience.

"I want to show her that you don't need to be scared of something that's huge and massive," Frost said. "I mean, jump in. Even if you're scared to do something that's big."

Among the murals, several are oriented towards birds.

Jennifer Kuroda is President of the Sinnissippi Audubon Society. She says a massive mural project in New York City features hundreds of bird species threatened by climate change. She says it's a much smaller scale in Rockford, but public art will include some of these threatened species and birds local to the region.

"Rockford is pretty much a blank canvas," Kuroda said. "There's not a whole lot of public art downtown right now. So I thought it was a perfect opportunity to try and take advantage of that."

Rendering of Oriole mural at 203 N. Church St.

There is an existing mural at 317 Market St. of a yellow-headed blackbird completed last fall.

As part of the CRE8IV festival, there will a large Baltimore Oriole at 203 N. Church St. by artist Brett Whitacre of Sycamore.

Another by Denver artist Yulia Avgustinovich features several birds from the climate change report, including a Sandhill Crane and Tree Swallow. The mural also features popular birds like the Peregrine Falcon.

Sitting atop the Rockford Register Star building, Rockford's resident falcon, Louise, has four eggs in her nest and a new male companion, Lil Kool. Her previous suitor, Gigi, did not return this year for unknown reasons.

Kuroda says that means this weekend can be a mix of art and nature for festival goers.

Mural by artist Yulia Avgustinovich
Credit Jenna Dooley

"I would hope that there would be an interest to get out and try birding even if you're not going out to some big nature preserve where there's a lot of acreage where you're going to see a lot of species," Kuroda said. "You can still see quite a few species of birds in the urban setting."

Friday, May 17, Lot 10 (508 E. State St.)

  • 4:00 – 8:00 pm: Mural painting, cotton candy, henna tattoos
  • 4:00 – 6:00 pm: Meet mural artists Chris Silva and Molly Z
  • 6:00 – 8:00 pm: Rockford singer/songwriter Kelly Steward performs

Saturday, May 18, Lower Jefferson Street & Water Street

  • 10:00 am – 2:00 pm: Downtown trolley art tours
  • 6:00 – 10:00 pm: Live music, tattoo demonstrations, a magician, live painting and more. Meet artists Lisa and Libbie Frost
  • Dusk: Fireworks Celebration

Sunday, May 19, Wired Café Alley (414 E. State St.)

  • 10:00 am – 2:00 pm: Downtown trolley art tours. Active painting of alley mural by artist Jenny M. Mathews