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Artist Giving Back to His Hometown

Rich Egger
Tanner Woodford during a break from painting the museum mural on Wednesday afternoon.

Tanner Woodford runs the Design Museum of Chicago, which he founded about nine years ago. But his roots are in Macomb -- where he was born and raised – and he has not forgotten about those roots.

To give back to his hometown, Woodford is back in Macomb this week to paint a mural on the exterior of the Western Illinois Museum building.

“I begged to come back and do this project. I’m so excited to contribute something to the Macomb culture,” Woodford said. “I interned at the Western Illinois Museum when I was 16 years old so it’s a little part of my history as well. I’m thrilled to be here working on this.”

He said two Macomb High School students are helping him with some of the mural’s details.

Woodford said he’s always had a creative spirit so he does murals on the side as a form of therapy. He estimated he has completed about two dozen murals.

The museum mural is being painted on a 10-foot by 12-foot metal garage door on the building’s north façade. It features a message: What You Feed Will Grow. Woodford said the theme feels homegrown to him and can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

“It feels appropriate for a farming community, a religious community, a secular community, for students. I like that depth to it,” he said.

People walking by or driving by can see the mural as it takes shape and comes together. Woodford is okay with that.

“I like to paint in the open. All sorts of people come by and say ‘Hi.’ That’s a fun part of it,” he said.

The museum will unveil the finished product during a block party on Saturday, August 21, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. The party will feature live music by the Ivas John Band, and a couple food trucks will be on hand. A five-dollar donation is suggested for admission. The party will take place on Washington Street on the north side of the museum building.

A New Look for the Museum

Museum Director Sue Scott said Woodford interned at the museum before she came on board, so she did not meet him until they crossed paths at an Illinois Humanities workshop. She said they eventually started discussing the idea of creating a mural. Scott said the mural fits in with the ongoing Renovate to Innovate project at the museum.

“It was an unexpected addition (to the renovation project). We loved the idea of making that north façade more attractive and making the museum more inviting. I think the mural really goes along with that idea,” Scott said.

She said to cover the cost of the mural:

Scott said the museum continues to make progress on Renovate to Innovate. Ten new Pella windows were installed and Scott said they are paid for. “We put that money back into a local business, local contractors, local materials. So those funds are going right back into the community,” she said.
Scott said the next project is to install a new HVAC system for the east half of the building. The museum is also removing artifacts from the east half of the building so that a new concrete floor can be poured. She said the current floor is not ADA compliant.

She said the museum has collected $121,300 of its $170,000 goal for Renovate to Innovate. She said half of the contributions are for $100 or less.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.