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Giselle Lewis outlines the letters in the Beeman's Pepsin Gum mural at 305 E. Commercial St.
Giselle Lewis outlines the letters in the Beeman's Pepsin Gum mural at 305 E. Commercial St.

After 5: A Little Taste of History

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It’s hard to imagine that a car slamming into the side of a building would be the impetus to a three-month mural project on the very spot that was wrecked. The building’s owner didn’t even see that coming.

Yet, this summer, Christine Schilling finds herself armed with paint and brushes on scaffolding 20 feet above the accident scene. It’s two years after a vehicle plowed into her 305 E. Commercial St. building, an event that caused artist Schilling to do a double-take at what lies underneath the banged up siding façade.

“The car’s nose ended up deep inside my building,” she recalls. “The siding came off, and I realized it was brick.”
The exploration of what Schilling thought was cinder block was under way, much like an archaeological dig, she says. After peeling back the siding, a historic advertising mural emerged from the dust.

“Everybody’s mouths just fell open,” she says. “It was like discovering buried treasure.”

On the east side of the building read: BEEMAN’S PEPSIN GUM.

Schilling – and seemingly everyone she’s asked, including area history buffs – can’t confidently date the mural. But her work – along with an artist colleague she’s recruited – aims to restore its original look.

Schilling and Giselle Lewis – both of whom are trained artists and were laid off this year from Garage Graphics & Visuals – now spend their evenings touching up the lettering and creating faux brick where some cinder block holds the 100-year-old building together.

“We’re going in and painting each brick. It’s very detailed,” she says, noting they’re careful to keep a semiweathered appearance. “If the paint is too bright, it says, ‘Look at me, I’m the new paint.’ You have to let the personality of the bricks come out.”

Schilling has received a $50,000 low-interest city façade loan to cover tuck-pointing, brick restoration and energy efficient windows.

She likens the work to doing her part in revitalizing part of C-Street.

“The gauntlet’s been thrown down,” she says of other sprucing projects nearby, such as the Savor bakery’s colorful crown cornice at 299 E. Commercial St.

Since May, the two artists have climbed scaffolds and Schilling ladders to paint until dark. It’s an unusual scene near the base of the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge.

“We tend to draw a crowd out here,” Schilling says. “It’s been a conversation piece.”

People often stop, look, linger and talk to them about the work. Occasionally, small groups will gather for pictures underneath the lettering – some just capturing the S-I-N part of the mural. Those photos are usually by teenagers and are accompanied by snickers, Schilling says.

Schilling says the mural should be restored by the end of July.[[In-content Ad]]

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