DANVILLE — Working along busy Main Street in Danville brought Chicago artist Marina Ross attention from passersby on the mural she painted this week on the north side of the David S. Palmer Arena.
Drivers have honked at her, and yelled out Johnny Cash or John Mellencamp, the subjects of her mural.
This is the first of possibly one or two more murals arena General Manager Joe Dunagan wants to see on the outside of the arena.
Dunagan has a long list of past performers who have played at the arena through the years. Performers have ranged from Guns N’ Roses to Heavy D & the Boyz to Willie Nelson and Reba McEntire.
2020 marked the 40th anniversary of the Danville Civic Center opening in 1980. It was later named after Mayor David S. Palmer, who was instrumental in its development.
The mural has been more than a year in the making.
Dunagan said driving around seeing murals in Danville had him thinking why doesn’t the arena have a mural?
“We could do one or two of those on our wall,” he said.
When giving state Sen. Scott Bennett a tour of the arena, Bennett said he’d donate $1,000 toward a mural project.
Dunagan said since Bennett was willing to do that, he allowed Bennett to pick the performers for the first mural.
Dunagan said he gave Bennett a list and that’s how Johnny Cash and John Mellencamp were chosen.
Then Dunagan had no idea how to go about getting permission.
He sent an email to Mellencamp’s record label.
A couple weeks later the arena received a phone call through the switchboard from Mellencamp’s agent.
The agent told Dunagan that John loved the idea and was on board. Mellencamp’s team also had contacted representatives for Cash, who passed away in 2003, for permission. John Mellencamp knew the Cash family, through being friends with a Cash family member, Dunagan said about what he was told.
Dunagan selected Ross to do the mural through an online artist search.
“I really felt good about Marina and her idea,” Dunagan said.
Mellencamp approved Ross’ design.
“It’s exciting to see,” Dunagan added. “It’s worked out really well.”
Ross, who also is a teacher in Chicago, graduated from the University of Illinois in 2012 and knew Danville. She was happy to come back to east central Illinois and see some friends, such as Kinsey Fitzgerald of Urbana, who helped her paint the mural this week.
Fitzgerald said she’s looked up to Ross, and was glad to help.
Ross estimated it was going to take her about 30 hours to complete the mural that she started Monday.
She said she sketched different ideas to start with and ended up with a design and colors to depict Cash and Mellencamp on stage with glowing concert lighting in the background.
The mural measures 10 feet tall by 17 feet wide.
It’s bright and fun, Ross said.