CENTERVILLE, Iowa — Downtown Centerville is the canvas, and the artists belong to a group called Walldogs. Once a year a group of artists gathers in a community to literally paint the town. In this case they are painting historic works of art tied to the history of Centerville.
This group began it’s work in southern Iowa in the town of Allerton in 1993. It has continued with artists from around the nation and world at various locations in the US. This year the group is back in southern Iowa. Nine painters are working on three murals, with a look back at Centerville history.
Bill Hueg of St. Paul, MN is lead “Walldog” on a mural about Norma Talmadge. She was a famous silent screen actress who came to Centerville by train in 1921 to film a movie “The Wonderful Thing” near the town of Plano. Hueg says he really enjoys the Walldog experience. “Here is a group of people who come from all parts the world,” said Hueg. “We share our art, and we gain from the community the vitality of that community,” he added.
Two other murals are being painted. One is a tribute to Albert Lodwich who was from nearby Mystic. He was the lead flight engineer on the round the world flight by Howard Hughes in 1938. Another mural is high above a building in tribute to Centerville’s Pancake Day Celebration, which was established in 1949.
Nancy Bennett runs a business on the square in Centerville. She led a committee of people working to make the Walldogs event happen in her town. “Public art is a great thing to have in downtown,” said Bennett. She said the historic nature of the murals they are painting, “help tell the town’s story.”
The Walldog weekend is quite an undertaking for a small town. Each mural costs around $11,000 a piece to paint. The nine artists also must be fed and housed during the weekend. The Talmadge mural is being painted in the shade, when completed will be mounted at another locations. The community did some fund raising to pay for the murals, which included some grants from funds raised by gambling in Iowa.