The Beaver Dam Mural Project
Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, is a hidden gem for mural enthusiasts, boasting over 20 stunning public art installations. Among these, you’ll find 17 captivating Walldogs murals that grace the city’s downtown businesses and organizations, telling stories of its rich history and vibrant community.
Adding to Beaver Dam’s artistic allure are four remarkable mosaic murals, masterminded by the world-renowned portrait artist, Stephen Bennett, and brought to life by the collaborative efforts of the local community. These mosaics not only showcase artistic talent but also symbolize the unity and collaborative spirit of the people of Beaver Dam.
To embark on this visual journey, plan a visit to Beaver Dam and explore the downtown’s colorful tapestry of mural artwork or explore this webpage as your visual gateway to an unforgettable art experience in Beaver Dam.
Beaver Dam: A Walldogs Mural City & Home to
World-Renowned Portrait Artist, Stephen Bennett
Walldogs are a national and international organization of painters who specialize in putting art on walls in cities throughout the United States and the world. Its founder, Nancy Bennett, states that the Walldogs artists want to beautify America by portraying each city’s history on the murals painted on each of those city’s walls.
Not every community can have Walldogs murals, let alone a Mural Festival. An organization called Downtown Beaver Dam, Inc. (DBDI) and through the efforts of Karla Jensen and the Executive Board, contacted Walldogs Public Art (the Walldogs) in 2012. When Walldog artist, Andy Goretski, and his wife, toured our community in 2012, he stated that we had great places for canvasses (buildings). Our city impressed the Walldogs and they offered to hold a Mural Festival here. DBDI committed to a Mural Festival in 2013, and a date was set in late June of 2017 to hold a Mural Festival in Beaver Dam (they were booked that far ahead).
What is a Mural Festival? A Mural Festival is five days long starting on Wednesday and ending on Sunday. Walldogs artists come to a community to paint murals on canvasses (walls). DBDI planned and prepared for the Festival from 2013 until the Mural Festival in 2017. Thousands of dollars were raised for the murals, hundreds of volunteers volunteered their time, and businesses, nonprofits, service clubs, churches, and others donated equipment and supplies, food, housing, transportation, snacks and water for 178 artists that came to our community that June. We have 17 Walldog murals in Beaver Dam. When the Mural Festival ended and the finished murals were completed in 2017, Beaver Dam took on the distinction of becoming a Walldogs Mural City.
Downtown Beaver Dam, Inc. formed a Design Committee that was in charge of the details to have a successful Mural Festival. One of the details was to determine the themes of the murals that would be painted by the Walldogs on the canvasses (walls) in Beaver Dam. The Committee was informed by the Walldogs that the themes had to be historical in nature—no theme could advertise a current business or represent current marketing. Each member of the committee was asked to bring ideas to the table based on their historical knowledge of Beaver Dam.
The committee came up with 23 different historical themes. Examples of the final themes chosen are salute to veterans, celebrities from Beaver Dam, church/immigration history, retail and manufacturing business history, Dodge County Fair, library history, education, breweries, Beaver Dam Raceway, banking history. Each mural had a price tag of $5,000 to $7,500. The Committee determined the final themes and building locations and brainstormed possible sponsors for each theme and location.
Four mosaic murals, three of which are hanging on the Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre, were led by Stephen Bennett with the theme “Portrait of a Hero.” The primary goal of this theme was to create a connection between hero or heroine and community. Four community members were chosen including Hollywood actor Fred MacMurray, children’s book Author Lois Ehlert, Public Television’s “Nancy’s Notions” sewing host Nancy Zieman, and Broadway Actor Eric Kalkhurst – all from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.
Done in conjunction with the Wisconsin Arts & Peony Festival in Beaver Dam, community members paint individual one-foot square tiles that are assembled in a grid to form a large scale painted portrait. Each artist personalizes their tile with their name, which records their participation and bonds them to the community experience. Three completed murals can be found hanging on the north side of the Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre including Nancy Zieman, Fred MacMurray, and Lois Ehlert. The fourth mosaic mural will be hung this fall, and a fifth mosaic mural will again be done during the 2024 Wisconsin Arts & Peony Festival.
Virtual Tour and Mural Information
Click on each mural below to learn more about each murals history, and start a virtual tour at that mural location.
You can also choose the button below to begin your virtual tour from the starting map.