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Shawe libero Lauren Grote (in white) rallies her teammates during the Hilltoppers’ loss to Lanesville in the Class A sectional championship game Saturday night at Rock Creek.

Fire guts St. Michaels duplex
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Madison firefighters responded to a fire at about 12:15 p.m. on Monday that caused heavy damage to a duplex in the 400 block of St. Michaels Avenue.

Trucks arrived from nearby Walnut Street Fire Company No. 4 and Fair Play Fire Company No. 1 just seconds after a 911 dispatch that heavy smoke was showing from the two-story frame structure.

Battalion Chief Travis Conover and Deputy Chief Kenny Washer both arrived at about the same time and started assessing the situation and working to deploy equipment.

But well before hoses could be charged and water put on the blaze, smoke had intensified and flames began to spread throughout the first floor as well as from windows and the building.

One of the residents, Eugene Murray, said he was upstairs when the fire began and went downstairs to investigate after he thought he maybe smelled smoke. Murray said he was looking around the first floor in an effort to identify the source when he saw smoke coming from a closet under a stairwell. He opened the door and more smoke poured out as well as flames.

Murray was able to evacuate his family from the building without injury but he had to leave the home without a shirt on his back.

With doors open the fire quickly spread to other rooms and up through the house. Once the windows started going, the structure was quickly engulfed.

Firefighters attacked the fire and worked to prevent spread to nearby homes and buildings while additional companies arrived at the scene and a crowd of onlookers and neighbors gathered along St. Michaels Avenue and the nearby alleys.

Firefighters were being released from the scene by about 3 p.m. but no other details were available at that time.

Murals transforming a parking lot to something beautiful
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Fifty years after becoming a city parking lot, the northeast corner of Second and Mulberry streets is undergoing another transformation.

A space for overflow street parking since 1971, the corner is being transformed into a destination park with hand-painted murals on the surrounding walls in the spirit of kindness and community. The transformation will continue once the murals are done with plans by the City of Madison to landscape the side and include benches and other amenities.

As the murals move toward completion, a special event has been planned by the Madison Area Arts Alliance for Saturday — an “All for the Wall” Celebration of the Mulberry Murals from 2-4 p.m. The celebration, which everyone is welcome to attend, will highlight the public arts project consisting of five murals in the Mulberry Street Parking lot in downtown Madison. The event will thank donors and introduce and recognize the talented artists who have worked over the summer and fall to complete the project. In addition to meeting the artists, and viewing their finished murals, the Bluebird Alley Band and Rusty Bladen will perform music.

The mural project is the largest public arts project so far by the Madison Area Arts Alliance and was conceived more than four years ago with the organization applying and receiving a CreatINg Places grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) through the Patronicity platform to fund the work. That grant, along with the support of many donors and volunteers, allowed the project to move forward.

Since early spring, the five colorful murals have been created on buildings surrounding the parking lot. The first mural completed was the Kindness Mural located on the former Hentz Bakery building, a colorful declaration of the community’s commitment to kindness. Inspired by Jane Vonderheide’s vivid heart painting, the original work of artist Steve Bickis captures a strong graphic of Kindness with a view of Madison’s riverfront. Artist Kevin Carlson accompanied Bickis to complete the mural in just five weeks.

It’s an amazing transformation with once blank walls now full of color in a corner that was once the home of the Horace Volz dealership for 32 years before in 1969 Volz decided to move the dealership to the hilltop.

With a need for more downtown parking, a deal was reached with City Council and downtown merchants to purchase the property in December of 1969 and raze the dealership building once Volz moved to the hilltop. That move didn’t take place until a year later in December of 1970, and by that time Hearl Brogan Chevrolet of Middletown, Ohio, had bought the business from Volz in July of 1970.

Now in 2021, there’s a whole new look and purpose for the property, highlighting positiveness and affirmations while sharing the story of Madison.

What started as a Kindness Mural has expanded to the walls all around the parking lot. Madison artist Patty Cooper Wells has painted on the mural, and said she’s experienced a lot of kindness while spending time in the parking lot the last few months.

“Being here has been gratifying and enjoyable,” she said. “Every day I’ve heard people from the community and visitors thanking me for what we’re doing. They’ve been really nice, and it’s really good to get to know the neighborhood.”

Moving east from the Kindness Mural on a Local Color portion of the mural that consists of Orbs painted by a collection of area artists coordinated by Cooper Wells. Art palettes are interspersed with the various works which are tied together with a ribbon painted by Carlson.

Many area artists have come together to create Madison scenes and topics related to Madison and Jefferson County. For example, Eric Phagan painted a scene of the Miss Madison that won the 1971 Gold Cup, Brenda Shropshire added Jimmy from the No. 1 Fairplay Fire Company, Beejay Elles did a depiction of the red caboose that’s outside the Jefferson County Historical Museum, Marshall Falconberry drew a scene from the incline railroad and Dallas Gambill did a river scene.

In all, 19 artists have contributed so far. Others include Debi Black, Carolyn Lopez, Mary Heath Bischof, Hannah Peddie Miller, Cheryl Byers, Teresa Waller, Russell Vossler, Cindie Underwood Vanderbur and Jenny Straub Applegate, along with groups of artists called “The Creatives” that include teens who meet at the SPOT (Supporting People of Talent), home to the Madison Area Arts Alliance at 326 Mulberry Street.

Next is the Living Color portion of the wall designed and painted by Cooper Wells which features Edward Eggleston, the novelist who wrote “The Hoosier Schoolmaster” that’s noted for its realistic depictions of 19th century America rural life and for its use of local dialect. Eggleston, who was born in Vevay, lived for awhile in Madison where he was known to ride the three-wheeled tricycle that he’s shown riding in the mural. The wall features a palette of strong colors made with hundreds of painted dots which community members, students and visitors helped Cooper Wells complete in the community engagement portion of the mural.

The final mural on the former Hentz Bakery building is artist Jacob Louden’s creation, the Living Tree, a 10-foot ‘selfie wall’ where participants can appear to be swinging on a tree swing off of a 10-foot gold and multicolored tree.

The mural work continues on the side of the Jefferson County Amusements building at 213 East Second Street, owned by Steve Lyons. Cooper Wells has been on site the most, over-seeing the project and doing all of the 84-foot River of Kindness Mural on the east side of the parking lot. That mural tells Madison’s story with river and transportation, beginning with Harry Lemen, a Madison attorney who was an amateur photographer widely recognized for his photos, particularly of buildings and scenes from Madison.

The mural begins with a brownie camera that Lemen was known to use and next shows a depiction of one of Lemen’s iconic photos of Darby Davis and his wife, Mae, relaxing along the Ohio River while floating by the Island Queen, built primarily as an excursion boat to Coney Island in Cincinnati.

After that, there is a section that, while maintaining the flow through the river history, also recognizes the art of Lou Knoble, known not just for his art but for his success as a teacher and coach at Madison Consolidated High School.

“Lou Knoble is one of the coolest artists,” said Cooper Wells, who worked to depict Knoble’s style of geometric patterns that sometimes transform into abstraction. Toward the bottom of the Knoble tribute section, are the words: “In honor of artist Lou Knoble” followed with “Searching for eternity,” a phrase Knoble has used in connection with his art. There are also three paper boats, an element that Cooper Wells said Knoble has used in his art.

Kim Nyberg, executive director of the Madison Area Arts Alliance, has high praise for the work and commitment of Cooper Wells on the project.

“Patty has poured her heart into creating a strong piece which defines Madison’s river and rail heritage. She is a character, and everyone in the neighborhood has enjoyed seeing her over the months this summer creating and coordinating the walls,” Nyberg said. “I think a favorite piece of the River of Kindness mural is Patty’s personal nod to Madison artist icon, Lou Knoble. She has incorporated his unique painting style into her mural and is a really cool part of the mural.”

A native of Queensville in Jennings County, Cooper Wells moved to Madison in 2000 because of the community’s arts, music and culture, and her affection for the downtown historic district. She’s had a lifelong interest art.

“When I was a kid, I had a talent for it, and when you’re doing it a lot, you get better,” she said. After graduating from Jennings County High School, she went on to study with Paul Neufelder in Columbus during the 1990s. Her first work in murals was in Vernon. After moving to Madison, she was hired to do murals at Joey G’s, now the Broadway Taproom at 218 West Main Street, with her art reflecting the popular music still being performed there.

“I like to tell a story with my art,” said Cooper Wells, something she loves about the Mulberry mural project because that’s exactly what artists have been able to do with the murals there. She noted one viewer told her, “If this doesn’t tell the story, I don’t know what will.”

Just past the Knoble tribute section are four quilts, capturing different quilt types from the Log Cabin, Flying Geese, North Star and Monkey Wrench to the Drunkards Path. Then a dog running keeps the transition going, followed by the locomotive Reuben Cooper Wells, a recognition of Indiana’s first railroad linking the Madison, Indianapolis, Lafayette lines. The arrival of the train as transportation brought change to Madison, initially one the largest cities in the state with the river providing the best transportation in the state’s early history.

As trains and roads moved transportation modes to land, Madison’s population began to stagnate and the city fell behind other cities in population, yet still maintained its historical character and connection to the river.

At the end of the mural is a night scene with a woman and man looking toward the river with a New Orleans steamboat and a log cabin. Cooper Wells says it captures the 1850s going back to the pioneer days.

On the back side of the Jefferson County Amusement building, Cooper Wells has begun to sketch out Roy Gentry, a musician who often performed in Madison, to represent the city’s musical tradition. “He influenced a lot other musicians in the area,” said Cooper Wells, noting Gentry died in 2017.

Additionally, with the veteran’s office being nearby, Cooper Wells plans to include art on that wall recognizing local veterans.

Another part of the project is the development of the SPOT, located just a few steps from the mural, creating a place for the local creative community to meet, create and gather in Madison.

The Madison Area Arts Alliance was established in 2014. Nyberg said they are working to build, inspire and nurture a sustainable arts movement within the Madison and Jefferson County region. Anyone wanting more information about the Arts Alliance and its programs can contact Kim Nyberg at 812-801-9863 or email artsherenow@gmail.com.

Striping this week as Main Street project nears completion
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Work on Main Street is approaching its final phase with striping getting underway this week, it was announced by Deputy Mayor Mindy McGee at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Public Works and Safety.

McGee said Traffic Control Specialists, a subcontractor hired by Dave O’Mara Contractors was marking final layouts on Monday, and making hash marks along the project area. Once final markings are complete, work can begin on mainline painting, which involves the long stripes.

“There will not be any traffic interruption or lane restriction, or closing related to this work,” said McGee.

She said work will involve one truck driving by and laying down the paint followed by a chaser truck. McGee said a fast-dry lane paint that has reflective beads will be used. “Typically we use the thermal plastic, which is the thicker application that is heated to the road. That does not adhere to liquid road. So this is reflective paint instead.”

McGee said the solution “dries in a couple of minutes so there is not a lot of traffic disruption,” so it will happen during the day during regular traffic. However, she said “drivers should have a heads-up and be aware that if there’s striping going on to get in the opposite lane.”

On Wednesday and Thursday nights, McGee said Traffic Control Specialists will work on crosswalks, stop bars at the stop lights and parking markings from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to do that work when there is less traffic. McGee noted that no parking signs are being posted along the route so that no one parks in the areas while the night work is being done. “Once they are done with a section, people can park there again, but to give them a clean work space,” she said. “That’s mostly hand work so we want to be sure to keep them safe.” She said work will be done from Jefferson Street west to the Crooked Creek Bridge.

McGee said the last part of the project will be on Hanover Hill, where there will be crack sealing, along with mastic for the deeper cracks. She said that work will be done by National Pavement Maintenance, which should be back on site by the first week of November. She said that company had to leave earlier in order to do a job it had contracted to do with the Indianapolis Airport. When that project begins, she said the work will be done in one lane with flaggers guiding drivers around. “We don’t have a estimate on how long that will take,” said McGee. She estimated it would take a few days, but once it’s done, “that will be the final piece on this whole project.”

Madison Mayor Bob Courtney said the Main Street project has been “one of the more challenging ones that we have done all across the city.” He praised the work of McGee, along with Kenny Washer of the street department. “Lot of traffic, lot of closures initially. A lot planning went into it, community meetings went into it,” he said. “Thank you for all the work you’ve put into it, and I think it will pay dividends for us.”