FOX VALLEY AREA REGIONAL NEWS: Calumet County, Fond du Lac County, Outagamie County, Winnebago County

The story behind Appleton’s ‘I Hear Singing’ signs

Fox Valley Regional News

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – The arts have become a central part of what makes the Fox Valley the Fox Valley.

A group of community members wanted to figure out a way to show artists this is a place where they are welcomed.

Musician and co-founder of Refuge for the Arts, Cory Chisel sat down with Mayor Hanna, some folks from the City of Appleton, and Lawrence University. Together they came up with the idea of signs placed strategically around the city to promote the Fox Valley’s appreciation for the arts.

Chisel, who also co-founded Mile of Music says with the popularity of the annual music festival, the number of artists and musicians that have been coming to the area have steadily been growing by the hundreds. Along with artistic work coming out of Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin is making a name for itself as a global center for the arts.

Rehearsal at Refuge for the Arts

It was discussed among the group, how to encapsulate the welcoming atmosphere Appleton and the Fox Valley have for artists, both local and traveling from afar.

“The arts for me have always represented possibility… creative growth,” Chisel states, “As beautiful as this place is, it will only get better with the inclusion of more and more voices… There’s a great deal of our past that is only knowable through our architecture, paintings, drawings, and music… art tells us that we were here.” He says.

As we go into the future and want to tell artists they can feel at home here and sometimes that can be with a physical sign.

There was also an idea for the city to have a song that represented who they are and what they stand for. What does Appleton sound like, look like, and what the hope is for the future of the city?

Chisel and some clients from Big Brothers Big Sisters, wrote and composed the city’s anthem “Our Song” in 2018.

Mural painter and creator of the signs, Chad Brady says the one lyric that stood out from “Our Song” is “We hear singing down our road”. To encompass music within the sign, Brady reshaped a G clef to make the “A” in Appleton and added the shape mimicking an F-Hole from a guitar or a violin.

Even the wood used to make the signs is local to Appleton. Urban Evolutions found out about the project and invited Brady to look at some slab wood they had available. Chad saw huge slabs of wood from one whole tree that was previously cut down by the city.   

Chisel told us, “We hope well into the future people will ask, ‘Why are these signs here’ and we hope it signifies our openness to the creative arts.”

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