Turning heads with downtown murals

Lori Hammelman
Posted 10/1/18

A new mural in downtown Rochelle has been turning quite a few heads.

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Turning heads with downtown murals


ROCHELLE — A new mural in downtown Rochelle has been turning quite a few heads.

The larger than life image of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe is positioned on the side of a Cherry Avenue business and is visible to those traveling on Lincoln Highway. 

It’s one of the latest works of art by Fran Volz, who is also known for the many snow and straw sculptures in Rochelle. He said the murals in the city of Belvidere, which are mainly nostalgic themes and old time local shop scenes, gave him inspiration to create one locally. 

“I thought I’d step it up a notch and focus on nationally recognizable figures — in this case Hollywood movie stars. So when people come to Rochelle, they can get their picture taken with Marilyn Monroe or Elvis,” Volz said. 

Two additional paintings will soon grace the walls of local buildings, one of Elvis and one of John Wayne. 

Volz explained while he had been painting Marilyn Monroe’s image, he invited area art teachers John Dobbs with Rochelle Township High School and Bob Donovan with Rochelle Middle School. Donovan knew of a couple of former art students who might be interested.

RTHS senior Alva Valle volunteered for the Elvis image and Mario Rocha, former RTHS student, volunteered to paint John Wayne. Cecilia Schmitt joined in painting the John Wayne image due to Rocha’s time constraints. Volz said both paintings could be finished as early as Thanksgiving time.


Volz said he first printed the image on standard letter size for reference and using a grid system he outlined it into the 12 foot by 11-foot mural on sheets of plywood. The shading and blending was all done by freehand. The majority of the work was completed inside a downtown building, in total taking about 80 hours to complete.

“Because these are 12 feet tall, when you are up on the scaffolding the eyeball might be as big as your head. You have to get down to floor level to see the whole picture,” Volz said, describing what is involved in the large mural. “But the grid method maintains the perspective no matter how close or far away you are.”

Volz said there has been discussions about procuring grants for local artists to paint other structures in the area.