Commissioned art celebrates Industry’s role in Rhinelander history
Local company unveils mural, welcomes descendants of Rhinelander pioneers
By Eileen Persike
Descendants of some of Rhinelander’s pioneers traveled to the city their forefathers helped build. The families were invited to the unveiling of a massive mural dedicated to the contributions of industry to the history of Rhinelander Thursday afternoon.
AirPro Fan & Blower Company president and founder Keith White commissioned Wisconsin artist Alicia Rheal to create the mural, which stands 53-feet wide and 12-feet high. The artwork is on the west side of AirPro’s office building facing Sutliff Avenue at Davenport Street. A ribbon cutting ceremony took place Sept. 3.
“Industry has been at the heart of Rhinelander from the beginning,” White said. “It’s no accident that our community has thrived through businesses that embrace the natural resources and beauty surrounding us and provide sustainable livelihoods for the people that call Rhinelander home.”
The artwork chronicles the founders of industry in the city, starting with the first logging business started by Anderson Brown, coinciding with the arrival of the railroad in 1886. Featured are 24 founders and their businesses that helped make Rhinelander what it is today.
The idea began late last fall, when White noticed the paint on the outside wall was chipping and fading. He combined the need to make the wall “pretty” with his love of murals. White’s goal, he said, was to build something that would be a source of pride for the entire community. “I hope that you will see that, feel that,” he told those in attendance.
After visiting the Rhinelander Historical Society and looking at books about local history, white and employee Lori Miller settled on hiring Rheal, the artist, to take his basic drawing and create his vision.
“The trickiest part is to pull the ideas that are fully entrenched in someone’s head to get it in a concrete form that somehow matches what they are thinking,” Rheal said.
The mural, White emphasized, was not about him personally, nor the company.
“It’s about something bigger,” he said. “Ultimately, we want to show that we’re all connected; when we’re involved insomething that’s bigger than ourselves, we’re all better off.”
Both White and Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce Director Lauren Sackett said they hope the art spurs continued public art in the community.