LaSalle Street Mural Project pays homage to Aurora history, thrives on teamwork

A milk bottle, an old truck, sunflowers. It’s beginning to look a lot like Aurora of yesteryear along Benton Street at LaSalle in downtown Aurora. 


Rebekah Axtell and Josh Schultz are currently working on a project that could be part of the city for decades to come so paying homage to some history makes sense to them. Schultz, an artist, and Axtel, a marketing professional, put together the LaSalle Street Mural Project last fall, and are now getting to see the project come to reality.


In mid-August, the couple along with a creative team of artists started sketching out their mural designs, and worked with a veteran sign painter on part of the project.


“Rebekah Axtell, Keri Borkowicz, and Joshua Schultz have been working so hard for a whole year in preparation for this project,” said team artist Jacqueline Fowler.


Fowler, an Aurora artist, said that she was recently asked to join the team. “Keri and I created prototypes of the sunflowers. Creative director Rebekah and Joshua Schultz decided everything went smoothly and they gave their feedback and we chose a little bit of each of our work! The painting has begun! Can’t wait to paint more tomorrow!!!” she wrote on a Facebook post.


Axtell added that grapes will be next. A grape vine and trellis are now part of the ever-evolving design. The design was approved last fall as part of the city-funded mural grant that goes through the Aurora Public Art Commission process.


Axtell and Schultz have been careful to include historical considerations on the LaSalle Street building that was at one time Pierpont Grocery. Most recently, people recall it as Castle Keep.


Local legend and veteran sign painter, Pat Finley of Finley Signs, worked hard in the heat on the Historic Aurora sign for the LaSalle mural project, Schultz wrote on social media.


The 8 by 10-foot sign honors the old Pierpont Grocery sign that hung in the same place near the top of the building.


Meanwhile, Schultz worked hard on his final mock-up of the 1922 Chevy delivery truck with the vintage Oatman’s milk logo. The truck, as well as the sunflowers and grapes, are being hand-painted on the brick, while the Historic Aurora sign was mounted to the exterior.


Axtell said the sign was initially to be painted directly on the building. But potential maintenance issues and the angle of the road on Benton Street made it a challenge with a ladder or a standard scissor lift. So the mural team worked with city crews to mount the sign to the building’s exterior. Axtell added that the sign should last much longer now.


In hopes to establish a budget for mural maintenance, Axtell set up a Public Art Coalition of Fox River Valley fund through Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley for future maintenance needs on this and/or other murals.


She said the fund can also be used to fundraise for new projects.


“It’s just a token, really, but a seed has been planted,” Axtell said.