Mural will depict town’s adopted mascot

Artistic rendering courtesy of Keith Fritz


FERDINAND — Keith Fritz and Lisa Marie Thalhammer have been plotting to turn the side of Fritz’s building at 1440 Main St. in Ferdinand into a space for a community art piece for quite some time. But until recently, the cousins couldn’t conceptualize the perfect idea.

“The side of my building is ugly, and everyone looks at it,” Fritz said of the tan, metal structure along the main thoroughfare through the town. “For years, we’ve wanted to do this but we couldn’t come up with anything good. We wanted it to be a community mural, something that the town could get behind and be a source of pride.

Thalhammer ­— born in the Perry County town of Siberia and now a well-known artist based in Washington, D.C. — recently learned the story of Ferdinand the Bull, the tale of a young bull who refuses to participate in bullfights. He’d rather sit under a tree and smell flowers.

While the town’s name isn’t derived from the story — it’s actually named for Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I — several entities in Ferdinand have adopted the peaceful bull as the town’s de facto mascot. For example, the Ferdinand Volunteer Fire Department has painted a version of the bull on its trucks for years, and American Legion Post No. 124 down the street from Fritz’s building has a depiction of the bull on a sign facing Main Street.

Fritz and Thalhammer

Fritz and Thalhammer — working with Forest Park High School teacher Rock Emmert and Kathy Tretter of the Ferdinand News — brought the idea to the town council in September. They proposed a life-size mural depicting Ferdinand the Bull laying beneath a tree, smelling flowers. The proposed mural will take up the entire north side of Fritz’s building, a canvas about 20 feet tall and more than 30 feet wide. The art will face Homestead Pizza and be on driver’s right side as they travel up East 15th Street toward Forest Park Junior-Senior High School.

Thalhammer and Fritz pointed to the town’s comprehensive plan as a source of community support for their idea. In that plan, community members called for more art projects and town murals in an effort to improve quality of place. The council agreed to sign on to the project as the sponsor for a potential grant from the Dubois County Community Foundation to complete the mural on the condition that Fritz remains responsible for the mural’s upkeep once the work is completed. Fritz said the project is estimated to cost about $10,000 and he will fund half. Fritz and Thalhammer hope the DCCF grant, sponsorship from Muller True Value and other private donations will make up the other half.

“It’s a very public space,” said Fritz, who from 1440 Main St. operates Keith Fritz Fine Furniture, a custom woodworking business. “It’s in the heart of our community. It’s the biggest building on Main Street, and it’s right in front of the library, high school and community center. My feeling is that it’s a public space, and I might own the building, but everyone has to look at it.”

The building also houses the Ferdinand Antique Emporium, a 12,000-square-foot bazaar featuring works from dozens of international and local craft furniture and interior decor dealers.

Fritz said Thalhammer plans to return to Dubois County around the middle of this month to start working on the lower portions of the mural, including depicting Ferdinand the Bull himself.

Thalhammer and Fritz invite the public to visit the site to learn more about the mural from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 1440 Main Street.     

The higher areas of the project will require a boom lift, a fairly expensive piece of equipment to rent, but Fritz is confident once community members start to see the mural take form, more people will start donating to help fund the project.

“I think it will be a really beautiful landmark and good for the community in creating a landmark,” Fritz said. “I think it will be great for tourism and people will stop and get their pictures taken with it.”

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