PARIS, IL (WTWO/WAWV) — Near the courthouse in downtown Paris, Illinois stands a mural over 30 feet tall, honoring of the city’s most prominent figures, Brett Eldredge.
“It’s huge. It’s really special,” the country music star said when asked about this artwork in a one on one interview with WTWO.
“I always carry that town and that area with me everywhere I go. They haven’t forgotten about me as well and I think that’s something really special,” He added. “I don’t know how tall it is , but there’s this massive version of me welcoming people into the wonderful City of Paris,”
Eldredge’s mural is one of many paintings surrounding downtown Paris.
Mayor Craig Smith said the city and the Paris Improvement Organization are adding murals on older and abandoned buildings.
“We want to let people look at the old buildings. We still feel like there’s a lot of life in the old buildings. But, it takes some people, money and time to come into it,” Smith said.
The project is expected to run until this fall and re-start, pending on weather conditions, next year. A total of six murals will be completed, but the designs for the other projects are unknown.
Smith states boosting local tourism is one of the many goals set to be accomplished by this artistic initiative.
“People are starting to notice the buildings. It may even make people slow down as their driving through downtown and they’ll look at other places of business.” Smith added. “It’s a long-term investment, we’re trying to do things downtown. We need to rediscover downtown, there are businesses doing well,”
The projects are funded through private donations, city funds, and contributions from business owners.
Paris native and artist, Millie Arp, has painted and assisted on multiple murals in her hometown. Since this project’s beginning she says community collaboration has increased.
“It gets people to work together and to see a common goal and a vision for the place that we live. It makes it more beautiful, it makes it a more beautiful place to live. I think we all kind of want that at the end of the day,” She said.
Arp designs the potential murals, some of her helpers include her middle school students.
“They’ve taken an interest in this project, they love it. Sometimes I hear them telling their friends about it,” Arp added.
For Eldredge, his mural’s location is in a place all too familiar for him.
“I have this weird, vivid memory sometimes. I remember standing there catching candy in the streets from parades. It’s so cool thinking that mural is where I was as a kid. I still feel like a kid from Paris, Illinois,” Eldredge said.
Brett has won numerous prizes and his songs have reached number one on plenty of billboards, yet he says this dedication ranks as high as any award.
“Everything revolves around Paris and still in a lot of ways does for me. So I think that ranks up there for me as something I’m really proud of. You roll into that town and see hometown of Brett Eldredge and you see a giant version of me down on the square, where I used to run around and still do when I come home. It really means a lot and ranks up there as one of the proudest moments of my career,” He said.
Mayor Smith said within the next year or two, benches, lighting and plants will be added near the square as a part of this revitalization.