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Stellar citizen just 'does what he loves'

The 2012 Citizen of the Year, David Markson, accepts his award from last year's winner, Leah Gavin.

Chamber of Commerce members chose David Markson as River Falls' Citizen of the Year, honoring him at its Feb. 7 awards banquet with a standing ovation and long round of applause.

Markson said he feels privileged to make a living doing things he loves, admitting he just enjoys life and does what he does so that others can enjoy it, too.

So how did he get to be the RF Sign Guy and such an avid supporter of community and the arts?

Markson said he grew up in the Twin Cities and never had any formal art training or lessons. The last art class he had was in the 8th grade, then he focused on math and science.

Those skills have served him well in business and as the RF Sign Guy who creates big wooden pieces of different dimensions that must hang safely overhead on an oval and chain.

Markson practiced parts of his arts, dabbled in painting and read manuals or other materials but didn't seriously pursue a career.

He recalls a turning point at age 19 when he found in his boyhood home under old carpeting a piece of paper on which he and his brother had written as kids "what they wanted to be when they grew up."

Markson's said: "I want to be an artist."

Markson moved to River Falls in 1977 after hearing about a self-sustaining community-living center, then owning and operating a co-op type of restaurant called the Natural Touch with former wife Judith Hanks.

In the 'early days' he applied for an 18-month job made available through an arts-related state grant for a community artist in western Wisconsin.

He calls it his first "real" artwork job, "That's where I got my start doing murals."

Markson painted his first mural for UFO Days in Elmwood, soon doing large images in River Falls, Beldenville, Prescott, Amery and others. He fondly remembers having baby daughter Anna in a backpack as he painted.

He took pride in painting murals in his hometown, especially the big one on the side of the building at 127 North Main St., now partially covered.

Markson helped start Art on the Kinni, found the Community Arts Base, started the summer Music in the Park free programs, and nurtured the performing arts both through the River Falls Community Theatre and the drama club at the high school acting, directing, designing sets and mentoring.

Read the entire article in the Feb. 21 print edition of the Journal.