Members of Antigo Visual Arts are adding some color to downtown Antigo, as a pair of artists are hard at work creating the first of what the groups hopes will be many murals on the fronts and sides of buildings.

Camille Converse-Smith is the lead artist for the project at 701 Fifth Ave., Antigo. Fran Brown is assisting.

“When it was first brought up to do this, they wanted some ideas,” Converse-Smith said. “So, I came up with this idea, and everybody was OK with it.”

Her idea is to feature the flora and fauna of Langlade County, from flowers to fish and from bushes to birds. Converse-Smith drew the entire mural on paper first, and she and Brown are using those drawings as the model for the mural.

The mural is made up of eight medium density overlay boards, each nearly 4 feet high and 8 feet long. Several of the panels will be attached to the front of the building above the doors and windows, and a few panels will be placed on the South Superior Street side of the building.

“It’s exterior latex,” Converse-Smith said. “It’s very weatherproof, so you don’t have to worry about being outside.”

Once complete, an anti-graffiti coating will be applied. If there is ever any graffiti on it, it can be wiped away, Brown said. The coating also adds a shine the mural.

“It brings out the depth more, too,” she said.

Both women have been part of AVA for many years. Brown is also a member of the board of directors for the Langlade County Historical Museum, where AVA will soon re-open its gallery.

Converse-Smith said she enjoys the entire process of creating the mural but enjoys the finished product the best.

“It’s really a sense of accomplishment for us,” she said.

That sense of accomplishment is shared among many AVA members. Talk of murals in the city’s downtown has been a subject of conversation for several years, and members are delighted that is coming to fruition this year.

Without formal training, Converse-Smith excels in a variety of mediums including acrylics, watercolors, pen and ink, and photography. She also has works on display at the Antigo Public Library and new senior center on Fifth Avenue.

Converse-Smith won the Lula B. Jacob award in 1978 at the Leigh Yawkee Woodson art museum for a silver ring and an Outstanding Merit Award for a watercolor.

Her biggest influence for art came from her high school art teacher.

This mural is expected to be installed before the June 12 event to celebrate the completion of the Fifth Avenue reconstruction. Other murals are expected to be underway by then. A patriotic theme and local horsetrack racing are among the themes.

Converse-Smith and Brown said they work well together.

“The lead artist calls the shots,” Brown said

“We’re very supportive of each other,” Converse-Smith added.

AVA continues to raise funds for the mural project. At the June 12 event, there will be at least 20 chairs painted in varying themes that will be the subject of a silent auction. “Sitting Pretty” is the name of the fundraiser.

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