ASHLAND, WI– 21 years ago, an Ashland artist had an idea to beautify the city while giving it an economic boost.
Wisconsin was celebrating its history as part of its sesquicentennial in 1998.
Artist Sue Martinsen thought Ashand should take part with a special mural. That one mural turned into a project two decades in the making.
“We did a second one, then we did a third one, a fourth one, a fifth one, it just kept growing and growing and growing,” said Martinsen.
It kept growing and growing and now there’s 19 murals around the city. Martinsen had a hand in every single one.
“Everything that you see in the murals can be documented historically with photographs from our community,” she said.
There are so many, the community started a trolley tour which runs during the summer.
“Everyone that comes to Ashland or talks about Ashland, there’s a conversation at least once about the mural tours and the murals in general so there’s a great sense of pride within the community,” said Nick Esberner, Operations Manager with Bay Area Rural Transit.
The trolley tour has brought in people from all over. Esberner said more than 500 rode along last summer alone.
“We do see people here all the time, taking pictures, reading their brochures, and with shopping bags,” said Martinsen.
She said that was her original goal: bring a boost to her hometown. It’s something she feels she’s accomplished.
That’s not slowing her down. Murals 20, 21, and 22 are already in the works.
“My thought is, how can we make Ashland better?” said Martinsen. “So what can the next one be? How can the next one be better? How can the next one be different?”
“It keeps the town alive,” said Esberner. “It keeps the history alive and like I said, it’s a great sense of pride.”
The trolley tour runs through early September. You can check the schedule with Bay Area Rural Transit.
You can also check out the Mural Fest and Car Show in Ashland on September 8th.