The Mural Process

The creation process for each mural was a mutual effort of local communities, historians, and the artists of ShawCraft Sign Company, along with the Lincoln Highway Coalition.  It was the desire of all those involved to produce the murals in a way that permits us to share with visitors the significance of the highway, its exciting historic legacy and the important role the Lincoln Highway played in the expansion of this country.

The Organizational Committee

To begin the mural process, an organizational committee was developed by the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition (ILHC) to carry out the approval system for each mural.  Members were; the ILHC Project Director, the ShawCraft Sign Company Mural Designer, The ILHC Program Director and two community representatives. The two community representatives were chosen by their local mayor, and then worked directly with the Illinois Lincoln Highway Project Director on each step of the mural creation process.

Design Subjects and Stories

The local community members were responsible to present a story subject for the mural’s design.  All stories used as mural subjects needed to be historically accurate and within the early Lincoln Highway era of 1913 to 1928-30.
Whenever possible a local story, which related the Lincoln Highway directly to the town, was chosen. For example; it was acceptable for a mural community to pay homage to a business that began to thrive with the addition of the Lincoln Highway or a business that was built there due to the town’s location along the route.

bernie-portrait As much as possible, the most dramatic and effective subjects would feature stories that were unique to each specific community.  If a local story was not available, the ILHC Project Director and Program Director would present National Lincoln Highway stories that the community could choose from. Individual stories of Lincoln Highway history are many and varied, so there was always good subject material to use for creating a mural. Community representatives would provide photographs and present research on their ideas for the murals subject to the ILHC staff and mural designer. Much effort would go into this portion of the mural process.

The ILHC Program Director and the mural designer would often participate in the research phase of the story, as well as seeking out additional images to be used in creating the mural.  Almost always outside consultations and facts were gathered from historians, Lincoln Highway experts and vintage collections.  These collaborative efforts would insure accurate details for both the mural painting and the mural story text.

Mural Wall Location

Choosing a building in the community for the mural’s display location was an intricate step in the mural process.  Community representatives were asked to submit more than one possible location for their mural.  The location qualifications were as follows; only highly visible walls would be considered, the direction the wall would face – with east and north being the most desirable, height and width compatible for the 200 square-foot mural, a clear and smooth wall with no protrusions and a wall free of water dripping on the surface of the mural. The community representatives would then submit photos and measurements of their possible wall locations to the ILHC staff.  ILHC and the mural designer would then make the ultimate decision on the mural wall location.


Mural Design Rendering

Once the mural subject and the wall were agreed upon by the ILHC, mural designer and the committee, designing the mural could begin.  Using the images and resources available regarding the mural subject, consideration of the display wall and along with any special elements or requests, the mural artist would create a computer rendering of the completed mural.  The rendering would include the space allowed for the story text, the painting’s shape, size and borders for the mural.  Each of the murals is approximately 200 square-feet and could be designed in a format which works best with the selected wall.

When completed, each rendering would be submitted first to the ILHC staff to carry out the approval system for every mural. The system for voting would be to electronically send out the rendering to all members of the organizational committee for approval.  At this time voting members could request any revisions to the mural design or approve it as is with a return email to the ILHC.

Mural Story Text

All murals were required to have story text included with in the design.  Murals are meant to tell a story, so a painting of a car on the highway would have little meaning without the supportive story text.  This step of the process required the ILHC staff to write the mural story text or to create it in collaboration with the community representatives.  The mural text would be carefully written to further tell the story depicted in the painting, allowing the connection of the highway and the community history to become clear while tying all the elements together. The text was then sent out to all members of the organizational committee for approval.  At this time voting members could request any revisions to the story text or approve it as is with a return email to the ILHC.

Mural Painting

With approval of the mural rendering and the story text, the actual mural painting could begin.  Each mural is hand-painted using oil paints on panels of Dibond. Dibond is an “aluminum-composite panel”; it is thin aluminum over a thermoplastic core, making it very weather resistant, with no expansion and contraction problems.  When the painting is finished a clear coat shield is applied to further protect the mural’s surface. Special fabrication for the mural panels, text and borders was done in the design shop and then each panel was attached to the shop wall to formulate the shape of the mural and readied for the paint. The actual time that it took to paint the mural would depend on the complexity of the design, but the average time, including drying time was four to six weeks.

Custom Mural Frame

Because the murals are not attached directly to the display wall, each one has a custom made frame that was devised by the mural designer. Building the frame and attaching to the display wall was the responsibility of every mural community. They were required to build the frame from pressure treated lumber, 2 x 4 boards that were hand selected for straightness.  The boards were cut and secured with screws to the wall according to the frame plan’s specifications.  Once the frame was completed the community was asked to send a photo to the ILHC. ILHC then gave the photo to the mural designer for final approval.  When the frame was deemed correct, the date was set for the mural’s installation.


Mural Installation

ShawCraft’s Project Engineer provided the installation details for mural series, while ILHC’s Program Director coordinated the date, time and any specialized equipment needed for the mural’s installation. Once on site, ShawCraft Sign Company’s staff attached the mural panels, one-by-one to the custom frame.  Final details in the mural installation included; painting all screw heads to match the mural and to adhere the State of Illinois logos.  The entire mural installation, not including travel time, would take an average of one hour. This installation process extends the life of the mural and allows the mural to be removed from the building and relocated if ever needed.
ILHC sent out a media release for each completed mural with details of the project, and provided a template of the release for the mural community to use.


Mural Dedication Ceremonies

Communities that received a mural had the option of doing a special dedication ceremony.  It was at the discretion of the community to plan whatever they wanted to celebrate the mural.  If available the ILHC staff and the mural artist would attend.