In honor of veterans and active military serving our nation in the Armed Forces.
Source: Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Rockford Public Art Trail.” Website Accessed 8/3/2023. https://www.gorockford.com/things-to-do/public-art-trail/
ROCKFORD — A new mural at North Main and Auburn streets brings a colorful addition to an intersection dedicated to military veterans.
The public artwork covers the north-facing wall of Rockford Billiard Cafe, 1436 N. Main St., and features an abstract version of the American flag that ties together imagery of an F-35 fighter jet, three blooming poppies and a nondescript military member saluting in uniform.
The salute is given in the direction of Veterans Memorial Circle and the Greenwood Cemetery, the city’s oldest and largest cemetery where more than 500 veterans serving in everything from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War and both World Wars are buried.
“This mural not only serves to beautify this roundabout, it also helps to foster an important identity for the Veterans Memorial Circle,” Winnebago County Board Chairman Joe Chiarelli said. “This mural creates a lasting message that we support our veterans in Winnebago County and we remember the sacrifices of those who served who are no longer with us, many whom are buried nearby in Greenwood Cemetery.”
Chiarelli made those remarks Thursday during a ceremony officially dedicating the mural to local veterans. The dedication included a moment of silence, singing of the national anthem and “America the Beautiful,” and a flag-raising ceremony honoring America’s five military branches. The mural was completed earlier this summer.
The mural was painted by Denver, Colorado-based artist AJ Davis and paid for by sponsorship from Collins Aerospace, which makes two major systems for the F-35 fighter jet, and money Winnebago County Board member Angie Goral dedicated to the project from federal American Rescue Plan. It is one of 44 murals the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau has curated since 2019 through its CRE8IV: transformational art initiative.
“Poppies symbolize the memory of lost soldiers and are an offering to both remember and celebrate those lost lives,” Davis said in a statement. “The soldier was referenced from a variation of 25 AI-generated faces, prompted to utilize facial features from every race to cultivate an authentic approach to creating a figure that was focused on inclusivity.”
The camouflage and the cap of the military member on the mural are intentionally nondescript to represent all branches of the armed forces.
Veterans Memorial Circle is the name for the roundabout at Auburn and Main streets that stands as a tribute to veterans. It is maintained by a group of volunteers who keep it colorful from spring through fall by planting, watering and maintaining several flower beds.
A commemorative flag was installed at the site to accompany the mural and pay homage to the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Dozens of veterans attended the ceremony, and visitors bureau CEO John Groh said this mural is one more way to honor them for their service and sacrifice.
“This project stands as a testament to our collective appreciation for their bravery and dedication to our nation,” he said.
Marine Corps. veteran Stanley “Curly” Thompson salutes during the National Anthem on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at a ceremony to dedicate a new mural near Veterans Memorial Circle and North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)