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Money for Murals: Fundraising efforts underway for colorful community project

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More color might be coming to downtown Springfield in 2019.

Financial adviser Dan Malachowski is leading a mural project called “Chroma” that aims to bring together local and international artists to turn blank walls into canvasses.

He’s starting downtown.

“My goal is to do two to four murals a year so that we have an opportunity to grow upon it and really make it a big part of the culture here in Springfield,” said Malachowski, managing member of Baron Financial Group LLC.

The first-year fundraising goal for Chroma – the Greek word for color – is $15,000. Malachowski, a self-described graffiti and street art fan, said the money would be used to cover project expenses, including compensation for the selected artists.

Malachowski and his Chroma team are seeking corporate sponsors and individual donors.

He said verbal commitments have been made, but he declined to identify any businesses until he has cash in hand.

He’s connected with the nonprofit Springfield Regional Arts Council to serve as fiscal agent for the donations. With its 501(c)(3) status, donors can receive tax deductions.

“That helps the project considerably in the capacity that we’re going to ask a lot of people for money – whatever they can give, whether it’s $5, $10, $20 or whatever,” he said, noting he’s also considering using the Cause Momentum online crowdfunding platform.

“My idea is to promote the arts locally, and I wanted to make sure I had the endorsement of the arts council.”

In October, Malachowski approached SRAC Executive Director Leslie Forrester, who endorsed his proposal and brought it to the council’s executive committee and board of directors. Both were supportive.

Forrester said the Chroma project’s task force, comprising Malachowski, Brett Johnston and Jeff Bilberry, will do the heavy lifting, with SRAC providing structural support.

She said a mural project has been discussed off and on by SRAC in recent years, but it never quite picked up traction.

“We have a small staff and a lot of great ideas but not a lot of people power to do them,” she said.

“This will be a wonderfully visible and great art project happening around downtown.”

Malachowski said he’s inquired with some building owners but declined to name any because the required contracts have not been drawn up. The written contracts will protect the artists’ works and ensure the owners know exactly what kind of mural will be painted.

Rusty Worley, Downtown Springfield Association executive director, said he plans to meet soon with Malachowski.

“This is a good project to explore. Our business owners take a lot of pride in the buildings we have here,” Worley said, declining to suggest the downtown areas prime for the murals.

Malachowski said no timetable or estimated length of the project has been set.

“We just have to find the right space at the right time and make sure that it works for everyone,” he said, adding he’s reached out to international artists and several have expressed an interest. “I want to bring these muralists into Springfield to bring color to the downtown area.”

Locally, Malachowski said he plans to contact Andrea Ehrhardt, who has experience with murals locally and internationally.

“She’s done some great work and is a phenomenal talent here in our community,” he said, singling out her work painting butterfly wings near the South Avenue and Walnut Street intersection and the “Greetings from Springfield” mural on the Discovery Center building, 438 St. Louis St.

Ehrhardt, who’s organized her work under Paint It Red LLC, said she’d be glad to participate in the mural project, having first created sizable art for projects with Bass Pro Shops.

“That really got me on the large scale,” Ehrhardt said.

“Now, whenever I do murals, it’s really just the bigger, the better. How big of a wall space can I get? Working really small, I don’t like it.”

She’s since completed murals overseas, including butterfly wings in New Zealand and Thailand, with another project planned this year in South Africa. Ehrhardt wasn’t commissioned for the murals but said she loves to incorporate her art wherever she travels. Her fees for murals are usually $15-$20 per square foot.

Her local murals have garnered positive attention for street art and motivated people to take photos to share on social media.

“It’s just a big community-building thing,” she said.

Malachowski said he hopes Chroma can add to downtown’s existing art-oriented community building projects, such as First Friday Art Walk and Sculpture Walk Springfield.

“I’d love to make this a project where you could see murals all over the city,” he said, acknowledging it could be a multiyear undertaking.

Worley said he hears a lot of good feedback on murals already present downtown as well as the Sculpture Walk.

“They’ve really added to the pedestrian experience,” he said.

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