Over the past few months, the town of Urbana has undergone a major mural transformation. The artists behind three of the latest murals, Rafael Blanco, Kinsey Fitzgerald and Lisa Kesler, worked with the features of their unique sites to create vibrant designs, often in record heat. Below is what they shared during our behind-the-scenes look at the making of their murals.





Raphael Blanco

Title: Dance on Illinois

Location: Urbana Adult Education Center, 211 N Race St, Urbana

Brightly colored mural with a diverse group of faces and the words 'Urbana Enlightened.'.'.
Photo taken from the Facebook page of the Urbana Arts and Culture program.

Smile politely: describe your mural in three words.

Raphael Blanco: Bold, dynamic, site-specific

SP: What’s the best thing about creating an outdoor mural?

White: For the viewer: the transformation of an empty/boring wall into a vibrant and exciting work of art. For the artist: the experience of painting and taking up the challenge of creating a large-scale public work.

SP: What is the hardest thing about creating an outdoor mural?

White : The rain. Even though we have access to countless weather apps, they are not always accurate. The weather changes very quickly and the public artist is always at the mercy of the elements.

SP: What three things do you consider when designing an exterior mural?

White : As a public artist, I am interested in creating site specific artwork. To do this, I must have the following in mind:

The site: The building, wall and/or space that is going to be transformed.
The community: The city, town and/or neighborhood surrounding the site.
The sponsor: The person who is actually interested in creating the transformation of the site.

The muralist Rafael Blanco in front of the location of the mural.  Brightly colored stripes cover the building.
Photo taken from the Facebook page of the Urbana Arts and Culture program.

SP: What was the inspiration for your most recent mural?

White : My inspiration for the Dance on Illinois mural was the architecture of the apartment complex and the performing arts. We (Fairlawn Real State and I) wanted to create a dynamic mural that could inspire students and tie into the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

SP: In what other formats do you work?

White : I was a classical studio artist for over 15 years before discovering public art in 2014. Before that I was a studio painter and also worked with sculpture, photography and installation art . After my first experience running a 24 hour wall marathon in Reno, Nevada, everything changed. I felt liberated painting outdoors on a larger scale, connecting with people, and under a time limit. Since then I have moved on to large scale murals. I’m in love with the idea that public art belongs to everyone.

SP: What’s the next step for you?

White : Next week, I’m going to Colorado to create my last fresco of the summer. I painted seven almost consecutive murals in Illinois, Utah, Texas and Connecticut in about three months.

SP: What do you most want viewers to know about your mural?

White : There is nothing to know about the mural, there is no secret or hidden concept. However, it’s about visual impact and how an empty gray wall could become inspirational with just a little paint on it. Public art appeals to all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. It tends to connect and unite viewers despite their differences. A few days ago I received an email from someone explaining how her grandmother, who just turned 102, made her walk past the mural three times in a row because of the impact it had on her. Stories like these are like trophies that I take home.

Learn more about Rafael Blanco on his website or follow him on Instagram.

Kinsey Fitzgerald

Title: Native Prairie Roses

Location: The Rose Bowl Tavern, 106 N. Race St, Urbana

Muralist Kinsey Fitzgerald works on her mural on the side exterior wall of the Rose Bowl Tavern featuring dark pink and white prairie roses.
Photo taken from the Facebook page of the Urbana Arts and Culture program.

SP: Describe your mural in three words.

Kinsey Fitzgerald: Site-specific, organic, activating.

SP: What’s the best thing about creating an outdoor mural?

Fitzgerald: The collaboration continues with the elements and the community. The process is permanently visible. For me, I like working big.

SP: What is the hardest thing about creating an outdoor mural?

Fitzgerald: The elements and the weather. For Native Prairie Roses, it was so hot in June. It’s hard to balance the social aspect and the work, as well as when you’re painting a public space… but maybe that’s because I like talking with the viewers and hearing the comments. Also, work tall and have the right proportions. Learn to drive an aerial work platform.

SP: What three things do you consider when designing an exterior mural?

Fitzgerald: The viewer, the establishment, the community, or the patron’s “personality” or vibe, I guess. (Future me: the budget).

Muralist Kinsey Fitzgerald posing against the wall of the Rose Bowl Tavern in front of a prairie rose with her signature to the left.
Photo taken from the Facebook page of the Urbana Arts and Culture program.

SP: What was the inspiration for your most recent mural?

Fitzgerald: Native Prairie Roses was inspired by the idea of ​​rewilding downtown Urbana with flowers native to that area to inform and bring attention to prairie flowers (hope to do more in town, like Coneflowers or Black Eyed Susans) The Rose Bowl Tavern itself was inspirational, as was the building and the local music scene it cultivated.

SP: In what other formats do you work?

Fitzgerald: Illustration, ceramics, sculpture, painting… I also like working with textiles and playing.

SP: What’s the next step for you?

Fitzgerald: Hopefully more murals and more collaborations on creative projects. Also, I plan to apply to graduate school this fall.

SP: What do you most want viewers to know about your mural?

Fitzgerald: This is the first of a long series. And it wraps around the corner to the east. Take pictures and tag me. I love seeing it!

Learn more about Kinsey Fitzgerald on her website or follow her on Instagram.

Lisa Kesler

Title: summer rhythm

Location: 25 O’Clock Brewing Company, 208 W Griggs St, Urbana

Wide shot of Lisa Kesler's Summer Rhythm mural at 25 o'clock with black outlines in abstract, geometric shapes and brightly colored shapes in yellow, magenta and cyan.
Photo taken from the Facebook page of the Urbana Arts and Culture program.

Smile politely: Describe your mural in three words.

Lisa Kesler: Colour, rhythm, joy.

SP: What’s the best thing about creating an outdoor mural?

Kesler: Many people will be able to experience this.

SP: What is the hardest thing about creating an outdoor mural?

Kesler: Height. Lots of ladders going up and down, scaffolding on and off etc. When I’m painting the bottom part of a mural, I can have my supplies all around me and grab whatever I need. Once in the upper sections, however, I have to take everything with me, so I use an apron and overalls with lots of pockets.

SP: What three things do you consider when designing an exterior?
wall?

Kesler: I want it to be interesting from afar and also up close. I like to take into account the architecture and the characteristics of the building. The mural must harmonize with its environment.

Photo of the dedication ceremony in the parking lot in front of the Kesler mural.
Photo taken from the Facebook page of the Urbana Arts and Culture program.

SP: What was the inspiration for your most recent mural?

Kesler: My new mural at Urbana was inspired by one of my recent series of linoleum prints. I like how the shapes work in the small 8 inch prints but also on the 13 foot wall. Surprising. The scale fascinated me.

SP: In what other formats do you work?

Kesler: I work with letterpress printing and linoleum block printing. I am also a painter. My paintings are in acrylic, sometimes combined with collage.

SP: What’s the next step for you?

Kesler: As for the murals, I am submitting design concepts to several regional mural projects for this fall and next spring. I also continue my work in the studio. I am preparing to ship several paintings and prints to a hospital in Texas this month. I’m starting to think about the holiday season. I can host a holiday show in my studio or participate in another local show. [I’m] still working on my plans, so nothing is final yet. And I continue with a book idea that I have been working on sporadically for a year.

SP: What do you most want viewers to know about your mural?

Kesler: I want them to know that the mural is for them. This is so that everyone can enjoy it.

Learn more about Lisa Kesler on her website or follow her on Instagram.