Lilburn artists make their mark on Wis. town's wall

Four artists from Lilburn joined a group who flew to Plymouth, Wis., recently to help paint the town's history on its walls.

Four artists from Lilburn joined a group who flew to Plymouth, Wis., recently to help paint the town's history on its walls.

LILBURN — Four Gwinnett County residents recently joined an elite group of artists in Wisconsin to paint a picture of small town America.

They were among 150 artists nationwide who visited Plymouth, Wis., at the end of June to paint 21 murals around the town square — each depicting a different aspect of the city’s history.

Known as Walldogs, the group of painters travel the country once a year to exhibit their talents and help cities and counties showcase sometimes forgotten heritage.

The Walldogs hail from all corners of the nation — as well as Canada.

Local couples Sonny and Peggy Franks and Ed and Laura Parvin joined the group on its recent journey, splashing the walls with homegrown Lilburn talent.

An enthusiastic artist and longtime Walldog, Sonny Franks was project manager for one of the 21 murals.

Franks’ charge was to memorialize the legacy of local pilot and Aviation Hall of Fame member Edward Wegman and his 1929 biplane.

On Franks’ team were his wife, Peggy, as well as fellow Lilburn artists Ed and Laura Parvin, who came for their first Walldogs exhibition.

“It was a big deal for that little town,” said Ed Parvin. “It was a big event for them, and they just loved it.”

Parvin said as he and Laura painted, locals would approach them and ask to help with the mural. Residents of Plymouth, young and old, were given paintbrushes and the opportunity to contribute to the art adorning their town square.

Franks said each mural will last 10 to 15 years.

A newcomer to mural painting, Parvin said it was a pleasure to work with “a real talented group of sign makers, like Sonny (Franks).”

Added Parvin: “They do it in the old style. Signs now are made with machines and computers, and this is old school. Like the ‘Drink Coca-Cola’ signs on the sides of buildings.”

Franks explained the process for putting up a mural:

“The night we arrived (Wednesday), we had the city officials cut off all the lights. We set up an old-style projector and shot the image up on the wall the size we wanted it ... then we traced it all night.”

Franks said the next day they started painting. “This way, it’s already inked on the wall ... it allows you to finish a project like this within a couple of days.”

The team worked for three days on the mural depicting Plymouth’s aviation hero.

Said Franks: “This guy (Ed Wegner) actually lives a couple blocks from where we painted the mural. He came out and watched me paint on one of the days.”

Added Franks: “When I came down to shake his hand, he had a tear in his eye. He said he was honored.”

The yearly gathering is often emotional for painters as well, Franks said.

“You’ll see somebody you hadn’t seen since the last year, and you run over and give them a big hug,” Franks said. “Some of the townspeople are looking at each other like, ‘What in the world?’”

Franks said mural painters are a special breed.

“The people that come to these events are just salt of the earth,” he said. “They’re the most wonderful folks in the world.”

To learn more about the Walldogs, visit www.plymouthwalldogs.com.