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Downtown wall sees color once again

A new mural on the corner of Main and Maple streets will be completed soon. The new art replaces the gray semi-finished paint-over of a mural done in 1998 by artist David Markson. The 2008 paint-over, done by past building owner April Ingalls, was met with criticism and controversy. The panel closest to Main Street features an abstract interpretation of the panel closer to the Kinnickinnic River. (River Falls Journal photos by Jillian Dexheimer)1 / 2
Local artist and sign maker David Markson has spent about 80 hours since early August painting a new downtown mural. He said he is painting by color rather than painting a section at a time.2 / 2

Passersby may have noticed the multitude of colors and scaffolding along the corner of Main and Maple streets.

All of this is leading up to the completion of a wall mural by local artist David Markson.

He approached building owner Kent Forsland earlier this year with an idea to add a mural to the wall facing Subway and to continue along Riverwalk.

Markson said he knew about money set aside for a mural project through the Business Improvement District (BID) Board. The BID Board works to improve the look of Main Street.

Markson decided that he would save the largest image of the original mural -- the big fish

He then said that he wanted to use River Falls’ connection to the Kinnickinnic River.

The new mural, according to Markson, will contain two panels. The first panel will be modeled off of a photo from where the Rocky Branch joins the Kinnickinnic River.

This image, closest to Riverwalk, is a more traditional look of the river.

Markson also used the photo for his second panel -- closer to Main Street.

He said that he has “done a lot of murals like this and wanted to do something more challenging.”

To that end he decided to do something more abstract, something different for him.

Markson describes the second panel as a reflection of the first panel, as if looking through a kaleidoscope

“It’s my own statement,” said Markson, “more of an artistic statement.”

He said the “piece challenges the viewers more than lays it out for them.”

The project, started in early August, should, if weather cooperates, be finished at month’s end.

Markson said he’s spent about 80 hours painting, and a lot more time planning.

Doing the mural himself, Markson uses a grid system to “…enlarge something small to something large.”

He says that it’s not an exact science, but that landscapes are forgiving and the abstract panel is flexible.

He said that the mural will not be sealed, but he does use sign paints, which are oil based, have deep pigment and hold up.

Markson said the new mural could “easily last 10 years” and that he will do touchups as needed. He added that the colors will fade.

Markson said it is “harder than you would think to work on the side of a building.”

He said the difficulty comes when dealing with the varying surfaces. He mentioned that the building surface has some bricks that are smooth and some that are “like the surface of the moon.”

“It’s time consuming to make a straight line,” he said. “It can be painstaking and requires patience.”

Markson also said that gravity works against him and he has to deal with paint drips.

To get to the hard to reach areas, he is using scaffolding. Markson mentioned that he while he tries to sit when he can, he still can only paint about six hours at a time.

He says that working on scaffolding requires him to be a monkey or contortionist.

Markson said that the total project will include the alley side on Riverwalk. He said although the original mural went the whole length of the wall towards Main Street, the new mural will only have the two murals on the Maple Street side.

It will be a more modest mural, said Markson, with a wraparound to the alley and focus more on the river.

Markson said that the work for the Riverwalk mural will be done in spring 2014.

According to Markson, the piece on the back is a favorite of the BID Board. River Falls Chamber CEO and BID Board member Chris Blasius said that this mural will be good for tourism and get people to be more aware of their surroundings.

Markson said that the mural will be tourist friendly and requires the community to get involved.

Through the River Falls Chamber website,, citizens are asked to supply their top five places or activities along the Kinnickinnic River.

River Falls Chamber CEO Chris Blasius says that not only are they looking for suggestions, but that pictures would be great.

The goal is to highlight both areas and activities, such as fishing, snowshoeing, hiking, in different seasons.

Blasius said that people giving suggestions will be entered into a drawing for a $50 chamber check. Those submitting photos will be entered twice.

For more information on submitting your ideas for the mural, visit

For the complete story, see the Oct. 10 edition of the Journal.

Jillian Dexheimer

Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.