Anyone who has traversed the Big-4 Rail Trail in Zionsville in the last few months has likely seen two murals being painted by artists from Blice Edwards Inc., a decorative painting and mural company founded in Indianapolis in 1993.
The murals were officially completed at the end of September and were celebrated with a dedication event Oct. 27. One mural is on a tunnel near Oak Street and depicts an array of Dahlias, as per the town’s horticultural moniker, the “Dahlia City.” The other mural, which encompasses the Mulberry Street tunnel, is meant to mimic the appearance of a hollowed-out log, with native reptiles, amphibians, mammals and more painted along faux-wooden walls.
Jarod Logsdon, superintendent of the Zionsville Parks Dept. said the department and the mayor’s office collaborated to provide the artists at Blice Edwards with a list of topics to explore at the onset of the project in early 2022. He said when the concepts were drawn up, he was blown away.
“At the parks department this year, our internal motto is ‘everyone plays,’ and we wanted to continue to find new ways to invite the community to our parks, not only by expanding our programming, but also by finding new opportunities to spark the interest of people that might not usually get out on the trails and explore,” Logsdon said. “With the murals, we wanted to install some public art that might invite users (of the trail) that have an appreciation for art, even if they don’t necessarily have a passion for recreation.”
Logsdon said the dahlia mural is a visual representation of Zionsville’s past, and felt it was thoughtfully executed by the artists as they incorporated depth and variation to the design. The idea for the log mural, he said, was the artists’.
The Community Foundation awarded the parks dept. a $150,000 grant that allowed it to incorporate public art along the trail, as well as signage in the form of mile markers that will be placed along the entirety of the 28.3 miles of the trail, according to Jodi Gietl, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Boone County.
“It was truly such a gift from the Community Foundation. They even managed the entire project start to finish so as not to stretch our team any thinner,” Logsdon said.
Chris Blice, CEO of Blice Edwards, said the design process took about two months, and the actual painting process took the entire summer.
Jon Edwards, vice president and artistic director for Blice Edwards, said there were a couple of hiccups at the beginning of the painting process. A coating left from the mold for the bridge made the paint melt off as they began painting the flowers. Edwards said the parks department had to have someone sandblast the bridge, but otherwise, the process was fairly smooth.
“I didn’t realize how complicated drawing a flower was going to be, especially ones that had more complicated geometric designs,” Edwards said.
Edwards said he most enjoyed hearing comments from passersby as they were working on the murals throughout the summer.
“This woman came through one day, and she started saying how much (the murals) meant to her, and how cool it was,” Edwards said. “She started welling up and saying, ‘This is so amazing, I’ve been trying to go for walks more often, and now I have an incentive to come up here.’ It’s really cool to see how it actually affects people.”
“By placing public art along the trail, we are able to connect our communities with the local history in Zionsville,” Gietl said.
“I was walking the Rail Trail and heard these kids passing by, and they were talking about meeting at the log tunnel,” Logsdon said. “It’s already kind of become a landmark in Zionsville, and it really affirmed for me that we’ve done something great here.”
A Bit of Zionsville History
The mural depicts a variety of dahlias, including a significantly large painting of the flower known as Zion’s Pride, a bright yellow hybrid dahlia cultivated by Zionsville resident Fred Gresh, who owned the former plant nursery, Parkway Gardens. Zion’s Pride won the Gold Medal Award from the American Dahlia Society at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.