How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

A mural paying homage to America's 16th president makes its debut at an art festival.

Big Picture

If a picture is a poem without words, then poetry is taking over the streets. Public art, a rising trend in cities and towns alike, offers intrinsic and instrumental value to communities; there’s the aesthetic value of the artwork itself, but it’s also a cost-effective way to drive economic revitalization through education, job creation, higher real estate value, and increased tourism.

The first-ever Big Picture Street and Film Festival in Peoria, Illinois, (great name, but no; not us) in October 2018 was designed as a grassroots collaboration of artists and arts organizations to celebrate the local creative scene and raise funds to hire more artists in schools, after-school programs, and community centers. The festival led to the installation of six new public murals created by local artists and community members, including a 30 x 50-foot framed mural of Abraham Lincoln on the Peoria County Courthouse.

Abraham Blue

Dubbed Abraham Blue, artists Doug and Eileen Leunig’s mural pays homage to Lincoln’s famous three-hour speech condemning slavery at the same courthouse in October of 1854 while recognizing the president’s lifelong struggle with depression. The artist statement explains: “Abraham Blue as public art is intended to elicit dialog and open conversation about depression and remove its stigma, … to encourage discussion about what we value in our leaders and what we value in our community. Abraham Blue represents our community’s ability to face adversity and rise above it to create a future that is better for all.”

Doug Leunig, president of the Big Picture Initiative nonprofit that hosted the festival, turned to Traverse City, Michigan-based Britten to turn his concept into reality. Britten imaged the 1500-square-foot mural in four panels onto the shop’s 15-ounce frontlit vinyl with an HP Latex 3500 printer; Britten also constructed 160 linear feet of its Ovio large-format framework to outline the piece. The banner and frame system were installed using articulating lifts by Peoria’s Core Construction just in time for the festival’s recognition event.

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