La PORTE — Plaza 618 in Downtown La Porte has a 108-foot blank wall…but not for long. Soon it will feature a mural created by Indiana based artist Tom Torluemke.

Torluemke began painting the mural on Monday and estimates completion in 6-8 weeks, weather permitting. The community is encouraged to stop by Plaza 618 this summer and watch as the image appears.

According to a press release from the Visual Arts Council of La Porte (VAC), Torluemke has more than 20 public art commissions throughout the Midwest, and was selected because he was the one artist who demonstrated an ability to customize a mural relevant to its location.

The VAC said its members provided initial direction to the artist on possible themes, but ultimately Torluemke had creative control over what to depict and the story he wished to tell about La Porte.

In order to make his mural accurate, Torluemke spent months visiting locations such as the La Porte County Historical Society Museum for inspiration. He interviewed citizens of La Porte to hear their stories and reportedly viewed thousands of photos to lend deeper meaning to his depictions in the mural.

Torluemke explained part of his vision, “it starts out real agrarian and leads into the town starting to boom in economic development. It deals with all of the historical characters that were part of La Porte’s advancement.” 

Torluemke plans to depict La Porte's annual Fourth of July parade within the mural. He intends to focus on painting that part of the mural first, so that locals may enjoy it in time for this year's celebration. 

On May 31, Mayor Mark Krentz introduced Torluemke to an audience of donors at the Thaddeus C. Gallery to be the first to view the mural design. The VAC said the design received overwhelming approval and applause.

According to the VAC, the organization was formed about a year ago in response to a growing desire for public art within the community. Comprised of art professionals and individuals with an understanding of art’s expansive role in community development and economic growth, VAC coordinated with the Greater La Porte Economic Development Corporation (now LEAP) and the city of La Porte.

The groups determined the mural would be the perfect inaugural public art project to further the visual energy at Plaza 618 already created by the splash pad, Joyful Noise instrument and colorful umbrellas.

Representatives of VAC Thaddeus and Laura Cutler spoke highly of Tormluemke.

Thaddeus Cutler said, “when we vetted all of the mural artists that we were looking at for the plaza, after sitting down with Tom, we immediately knew that he was a perfect fit. He was the artist that was perfect for La Porte. He is taking all of our stories and history and is putting it together into this amazing piece.” 

Laura Cutler commented, "we have had lots of people come down to the gallery and ask if it’s OK for them to come down and watch it come together. The mural has done a lot for community engagement and involvement. This amazing piece is so relevant to our community, we’re thrilled." 

The VAC is hoping this mural inspires other art projects to come to the city.

"I know that it is really going to transform downtown. It’s the first public art project of this scale, and we’re hoping it is the first of many,” Thaddeus Cutler said. 

Sponsors and donors of this project will be recognized at a final ribbon cutting and ceremony upon completion this summer.

For more information email thaddeus@thaddeusc.com, or follow the Visual Arts Council of La Porte on facebook, (@visualartscounciloflaporte).

—From staff reports

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