A roughly two-year project 25 years in the making came to fruition on July 23 when a mural depicting downtown Montgomery was revealed to the world.
The nearly 40-foot black and white depiction of the "Kolacky Capital" around the year 1900 now graces Ash Avenue near First Street.
The Montgomery Messenger reports that the $20,000 project came at the behest of representatives from the Montgomery Arts & Heritage Center, Montgomery Area Community Club and the Montgomery Historical Society.
About 25 years ago, Victor Garcia, who now resides in Belle Plaine, painted a similar scene for Montgomery's downtown. But time did what time does and the mural began fading, which prompted community leaders, including Jean Franke, Maureen Gunderson, Susan Hayes, Jim Mladek, Dale Ruhland, and Tom Washa, to initiate the mural's replacement.
Thanks to a grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and Ace Hardware Stores, restoration on the project was also made possible by a grant from the Montgomery Community Foundation, Prairie Lakes Regional Art Council and individual gifts. To complete the $20,000 project, the mural's committee looked no further than Garcia to do the honors.
More than 1200 hours of Garcia's time, over 400 from his wife Michelle, countless hours from a team of rotating volunteers, and the newly unveiled mural was complete.
"This is exactly how I wanted this to turn out," Garcia said.
Drawing from a number of historic photos depicting downtown Montgomery, Garcia tethered together a tapestry of bygone moments and landmarks. Among them are a number of personal touches Garcia added to inject himself into the mural literally and figuratively.
To the casual passerby, a small dog in the monochrome masterpiece might not register, but what they might not realize is that dog depicts Garcia's real-life family pet.
In the foreground of the piece stand three men overlooking the landscape centered around a singular vanishing point. What Garcia never told anyone is that the three men represent himself and two of his close friends. He was sure to even add a birth mark on the figure representing himself. Hidden in many of the details lie the names of other friends and family members, including his wife Michelle. Garcia's grandfather and birds on a wire representing other members of his family are among the other facets of his life directly implanted into the piece.
Like the work completed 25 years ago, Garcia has also added a number of Montgomery identifiers hidden throughout. Those icons specific to Montgomery, including Redbirds and the Montgomery Messenger, are listed on a side plaque commemorating the mural.
The piece, which unlike its predecessor has been coated with an ultraviolet repelling clear coat, covers a series of wooden panels that Garcia worked on at a building provided to him by the committee. He began work in the center of the piece and worked outward, and progress was painstaking, Garcia said.
"(At the start of the project) I looked this way and I looked that way and I went, 'Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into?'" Garcia said.
But with the help of several volunteer artists, including Cami Vargo, Marty McGuire, Ruth Viskocil, Audrey Peterson, Megan Rabenberg, and Maleanie Schumacher, progress got going quickly.
"When I got out and I started seeming some progress, I got into it, and you couldn’t pull me away," Garcia said.
On Friday, July 31, Garcia had just a few touch-ups to finish, book-ending his years-long saga into the work that shows countless details, including individual bricks on buildings and name tags on delivery people.