New Book Documents 23 Wall Mural Projects

A new book, simply called “The Walldogs Book,” documents 25 events over a 23-year period, in which signpainters have created more than 500 wall murals on brick walls to help commemorate communities’ histories. These artisans, who call themselves the Walldogs, have held annual events every year since 1999. The documentation is complete through 2016.

Most of the book is photos, with a listing of the project leader for every mural. The book was compiled and published by Jay Allen, an original member of the Walldogs Public Art Group who also owns ShawCraft Sign Company (Machesny Park, IL). Allen, who co-chaired the 1997 Walldog meet (the first Walldog meet was held in 1993 in Allerton, Iowa), also wrote an eight-page introduction about the genesis of the Walldog movement, and why artisans from throughout the United States and Canada (which has hosted two Walldog meets) would volunteer their time for such projects. He speaks about signpainter Nancy Bennett, who jumpstarted the Walldog movement.

Bennett, whose hometown is Allerton, recruited approximately two dozen Iowa signpainting artisans (who call themselves the Letterheads) to paint a mural in Allerton. Because of the wall’s exposed tile, the mural started to fade after several years, and plans were made to refurbish it in 1993. The result was the first Walldog meet. (The Letterheads movement began in 1975 with seven sign apprentices in Denver, Colorado, who began sharing time-honored signmaking techniques.)

The 1997 event in Belvidere, Illinois, attracted 350 artisans, who produced 6,000 square feet of murals on 10 walls. Allen notes that the event won the 1997 Governor’s Art Award for Community, which was presented by the Illinois Arts Council, and also first place in a contest hosted by the Illinois Department of Tourism in its Citywide Promotion category. In 2008, Belvidere was declared an Arts Friendly Community by the Illinois Arts Alliance and the Illinois Municipal League.

The book is available on

Wade Swormstedt

Wade Swormstedt

Wade is Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry. Formerly he was Editor and Publisher of Signs of the Times magazine.

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