Tuesday morning, a new calendar featuring watercolors of Rockford locations was unveiled. The artist traveled from her home in France to attend the event that began 815 Day in Rockford.
A crowd gathered on the terrace at the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau clapped, cheered and shot off confetti to mark the official release of the “Paint the Town” calendar.
Each month features a watercolor painted on location at venues throughout Rockford earlier this summer by Malika Moine. Those in attendance were able to get Moine’s autograph – in an original watercolor painted on the spot – on their calendars, while her partner Fred Buram entertained the crowd with his saxophone playing.
Lynn Stainbrook made it clear she thought the calendar was worth buying.
“I think the calendar’s beautiful!,” Stainbrook said. “[It] has lots of things about Rockford in it and it's absolutely gorgeous.”
Marsha Mueller was also impressed.
“I’m also on the Laurent House Board and it’s great to see all the local highlights featured in here,” Mueller said.
The sites include the Coronado Theater and Laurent House, but also the corner of South Main and Chestnut downtown, with its mix of repurposed historic buildings. Moine, who calls the French city of Marseilles home, said she paints like a journalist. She finds value in each of her subjects, whether it’s migrants in distress in Europe, or people leading their daily lives in Illinois.
“I think my work is very close [to] photographs,” Moine said, “because I don’t invent [anything]. I just paint what I see, but with my eyes. Beauty is everywhere, even where we don’t expect it.”
It must be said that, despite what she said, these are NOT photographs. They are paintings; and, while the subjects are clear, there is a definite style -- even a bit of whimsy -- to be found among them.
So how did an artist from the south of France end up painting scenes in Rockford? Local philanthropist Jake Brubaker said it happened almost by chance. He and some others were in a shop in a small French village when the artist just happened to drop by.
“And I saw this lady, and she was showing one of her things,” Brubaker said. “And I said, ‘Gosh, I would like a copy of one of that. And she said, ‘All right, I’ll give you one.’”
The others wanted -- and got -- pictures by Moine, too. Once back in Rockford, the group of friends came up with the idea of using the artist’s talents for a calendar featuring local scenes. They asked Moine if she would come to Rockford, and the artist said yes.
Maryanne Smith is President of the Friends of the Coronado and a self-described “Paint the Town” enthusiast. She followed along with Moine in June as the artist painted around Rockford. Smith said Moine immediately noted the city’s diversity. She remembered how the artist enjoyed going to Sinnissippi Gardens to watch young Latinas dressed up to celebrate their Quinceañera, or coming of age.
“She just loved the fact that Rockford had so many places that were special for our everyday and our special lives,” Smith said, “and she’s re-opened my eyes to that diversity and the richness of it.”
The calendar also marks local events happening in each month, such as ArtScene or the Rockford City Market.
The unveiling was part of the 815 celebration that continued throughout the day with events celebrating Rockford institutions and organizations. Many had news of their own to share. The Friends of the Coronado, for instance, announced details of a two-day free public celebration of the Coronado Theater’s 90th Anniversary that will happen at the end of September.
Proceeds from calendar sales will go to support the Forest City Beautiful Initiative to enhance downtown streetscapes and public areas with plantings and art.