QUINCY -- The primary artist behind the brightly-colored, flower-filled mural at 403 Hampshire says his creation titled, "In The Evening Air," will be completed within the week depending on weather conditions.
Jeff Bruce of Quincy has been working on the mural since June 26. He said the mural, which is 100-feet long and 17-feet tall, is the largest art project he has ever attempted. To complete the project, Bruce and his assistant, Zachary Meyer, will use 16 gallons of paint.
"I've always liked a challenge," Bruce said.
Planning for the mural actually begin in 2015, when Bruce started working with the Public Art Commission. At the time, Bruce said he wanted to put his creative energies to use after retiring from his museum photography business.
"I started thinking about who is Quincy and what is Quincy," Bruce said. "Then I started thinking about how I wanted to reach a broad audience of people, not just Quincy residents."
Ultimately, a song lyric about the perfume of flowers lingering in the evening air served as the inspiration for the mural, which includes imagery of flowers and flowering trees that are native to Quincy and to Illinois.
"I went through different native flowers in the design," Bruce said. "Eventually, I decided on these flowers because these all have positive associations and not all of our native flowers have that."
Among the flowers included in the mural are dogwoods, brown-eyed Susans and purple violets. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the dogwood flower symbolizes Christianity as well being a symbol of strength and resilience. A purple violet is often associated with thoughts of love and affection. The brown-eyed Susan is associated with justice.
Bruce said he designed the mural to make "big and bold" statement about Quincy and the city's love of the arts, both visual and performance.
"Art can give people a sense of pride about their community," Bruce said. "Art can also make Quincy an interesting place to live."
He added that he hopes Quincy residents will come to use the mural as a memorable photo backdrop.
The completion of the mural will make way for the second phase of the planned improvement at 403 Hampshire. The next phase includes transforming the vacant lot into a pocket park or an area that has some seating, greenery and pavers.
The property is passed by hundreds of motorists each day, and Bruce said it has been the ideal spot for the Public Art Commission's first endorsed large-scale public artwork.
"It seems that everybody has got something to say about the mural," Bruce said. "Sometimes people will park and come and talk about it. Other times they just shout it out of their cars as they drive past at 35 miles per hour."
Bruce said he hopes the mural is the first in many public art displays in Quincy and that downtown business owners will see the financial benefits of having a neighborhood filled with art. Recently, the Quincy City Council and the Public Art Commission approved plans for a mural to be painted on a retaining wall in an alleyway in the 700 block of Hampshire Street. The mural, which is designed by Mick Crist, features nine panels depicting various scenes. No public money is being spent on this mural.
"We now know that arts are a huge economic driver, so as Quincy business owners look to diversify their economic prosperity then hopefully they will see the value that supporting art will have on their businesses," Bruce said.
Maggie Strong, a member of the Quincy Public Arts Commission, which was established earlier this year, said the group intends to continue to find ways to bring more pieces of art to Quincy.
"Right now, we just need to slow down and figure our processes out," Strong said. "We also need to raise funds for our next projects and figure out what opportunities there are out there."