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Simantel Gets Some New Ink

Talk about hard to buy-for. What do you get someone who worked for your company for 21 years and co-owned it for 13 of those years? That’s the question we were left to ponder back in 2021 when one of Simantel’s long-time owners, Maggie Whalen Misselhorn retired. We racked our brains and finally came up with the perfect idea—a blank wall. While some might think, “Um, thanks?” to Maggie it was an amazing gift. As a passionate supporter of arts in the community and an active Board Member of Big Picture Peoria, she saw it as an opportunity to give back to us all. So, it was obvious. Simantel partnered with Big Picture to bring Maggie’s vision to life on the back of Simantel’s building at 321 SW Water Street. Stop by and have a look for yourself, or watch the mural dedication ceremony.

Bringing the Mural to Life

The first task at hand was to select an artist for the massive painting. Maggie thought of the whimsical style and highly saturated paintings of local artist Bob Doucette. Bob started his career in animation at Warner Bros. and was involved with many classics like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs. As an animation director, he was also responsible for many well-known animated children’s programs for PBS. Bob was born in Maine, worked in L.A. and has now settled in Peoria, Illinois. We’re very lucky to have an artist like him in our community to bring these ideas to life. That’s why Maggie felt if anyone could accurately capture the idea floating around in her head, it was Bob. And he nailed it.

With three unique faces and dozens of diverse hands, the piece represents teamwork and building each other up. The vibrant colored butterflies symbolize the beautiful output of that collaboration—the good that’s sent out into the world. Thank you Bob and assisting artist, Brenda Pagán.

See more of Bob’s art, including his work on this mural.

Maggie explains, “In all my years at Simantel, there wasn’t one time that an idea started with one person and left the building as the exact same idea. There was always a group effect—building on each other’s thoughts. And I know that’s still true today.”

“In addition, it also symbolizes working together and raising each other up,” Maggie continues. “And not just within the walls of Simantel. The mural also represents a call-to-action to the community to be inclusive of one another and work together to make the world around us better.”

Every aspect of this remarkable piece of artwork was taken into consideration, even its placement. It frames the back entrance of the office as a reminder that once Simantelites walk through those doors, they’re going to be surrounded by people who care about one another as much as they do the work. And together, they’re going to make the magic happen. Speaking of making the magic happen, check out this time lapse video of the mural being painted.

Likewise, Tim Leesman, Simantel Co-owner and Principal is thrilled to see the barren brick wall of the agency’s building come to life. “I love how the mural turned out. It’s so bold and colorful and has created quite a buzz among our staff. To us, it also represents that lasting impact Maggie has had on our agency. My business partner Misty and I truly believe that it takes businesses like us to step up and help build our community in ways that create excitement and conversation. Simantel is invested in seeing our community grow and turning the back of our building into a large-scale mural was an easy choice for us.”

Thank you, Maggie for turning Simantel’s gift to you into a gift for the entire community.

The Power of Public Art

Sure, it’s fun to see art in surprising places like side of a building in a busy area, an alleyway or park. But it’s about so much more than brightening the local landscape. Public art reflects the unique character of a community, celebrates its diversity and fosters a sense of belonging and pride. When used to address social, political or environmental issues it can stimulate dialogue that leads to greater understanding and empathy, creating meaningful connections among community members. It even has the potential to attract visitors and stimulate economic growth. That’s where Big Picture Peoria comes in.

A grassroots 501(c)(3) organization formed by a group of dedicated volunteers, Big Picture believes in the power of art to change our community. Part of the work that they do is creating large scale murals in and around Peoria. Their 36-plus pieces contribute to the area’s identity as an art destination and all the benefits that creates. It’s one more way to generate the positive change that’s part of the Choose Greater Peoria movement that we’re so proud to be a part of. And so, it seemed only fitting to show our support by transforming the bland brick wall on the rear of Simantel’s HQ at 321 SW Water Street into a work of art for all to enjoy.

Big Picture Peoria President and Founder, Doug Leunig is excited to add to the collection. “Large scale art is so important because it allows for creative placemaking and gives an identity to our city. Being around something that’s vibrant also generates excitement and promotes tourism. Big Picture is proud to champion this effort in our community.”

And we’re proud of our new ink. Thank you, Big Picture Peoria, for making it possible and for all you’ve done for our city.

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