ROCHELLE — Now overlooking the downtown gazebo area is a 54-by-24-foot mural depicting flowers and insects.
The mural was designed and painted by local artists and siblings Mat and Mandey Steder and commissioned by the City of Rochelle. Mat owns a tattoo shop downtown and Mandey is a graphic designer.
The Steder siblings said feedback from passersby and social media has been positive since they started work on the mural.
“I think we were looking for something that was for all ages that everyone could relate to,” Mandey said. “It brightens up this area. A lot of events are held down here. It's just non-specific. It's floral and it goes with the outdoors. People seem to be loving it when they walk by, no matter the age of the person.”
The work on the mural has taken about three weeks for the Steders. They’ve utilized a scissor lift and exterior acrylic latex paint for the project, which will give it the same lifespan as paint on a house. Mat said sealant will likely be put over the mural to protect it from water.
City of Rochelle Community Development Director Michelle Pease reached out to Mat about the mural in recent months. After Mandey designed the mural, the city approved it within 12-15 hours and asked when the Steders could start work.
“We're not even done yet and they're already asking about a mural next year,” Mat said. “That's cool. And they're telling me to go find a wall. Obviously I have to get it approved, but I can go look for the canvas. That's really cool. After driving around and looking at walls, I'm probably going to pick somewhere that just is a little dim that needs to be brightened up. I am going to look for a good canvas that's smooth and not on brick. I would like to place them all over. That gets people moving around to see them.”
The outdoor mural project is out of the comfort zones of Mat and Mandey and it's the first time they’ve worked on a project like it. Mat called the work “a breath of fresh air,” as it’s allowed him to take a break from his busy tattooing schedule. Mandey has gotten a reprieve from working on a computer for 12 hours a day.
“I get to be outdoors in daylight instead of by a computer doing graphic design,” Mandey said. “I'm doing real outdoor art. It's been a breath of fresh air for me too. There are times where it gets tiring. But it's been so much fun and I have nothing to complain about. It's been wonderful.”
Working on the project together has been enjoyable for the siblings. They’ve gotten to spend more time together than usual and have learned that they work well together. They’ve learned different things about their own and each other’s art styles.
“It's been awesome,” Mat said. “It's the longest we've hung out in many years. It's really nice. This whole thing has been a neat process. In the beginning, I thought we'd get it done in a week and a half tops. When we got into it, that wasn't even realistic. The work is nonstop all day. We eat and drink at the wall. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's been a great time and we're so happy we decided to do it. It was such a good idea. We're very grateful they decided to ask us."
Being near the heart of downtown, residents that walk or drive by have stopped to talk with Mat and Mandey and offer encouragement.
“It's been all cheering us on and congratulating us on how beautiful it is,” Mandey said. “It's positive affirmations that have really made us feel better, especially on the days when it's been so hot. It gets you excited to finish when you're maybe not having the best day.”
The Steders said it’s meant a lot to them to be able to leave their mark downtown. Their father, Ron, was active in the community. He passed away in 2020.
“Now it feels like the baton has been passed and we've been asked to do something,” Mandey said. “And we're doing it. The community is responding to us the same way they used to respond to him. It feels nice and welcoming. It just feels right. We love it. The way the community has been, it's a wonderful way for us to honor our father and the community. It will be here for a long time. It will be neat to bring people and show them what we did as brother and sister. It's as cool as you'd think it would be. It's bringing positivity to the town. And we need that. Everyone needs that.”