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Amal artisans complete downtown De Pere mural

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – You can tell a lot about a person from the state of their hands.

Auto mechanics’ and farmers’ hands practically broadcast their occupations with oil and soil; likewise, people who work in banks or in the public eye tend to have soft mitts with well-groomed nails.

Swedish artists Funny Livdotter and Emelie Rygfelt Wilander are no exceptions.

Aqua blue and lime green latex paint coats not just their hands, but their arms, faces, feet, and legs, making it perfectly obvious that they’ve been painting a mural on a wall in downtown De Pere.

The newest addition to De Pere’s collection of downtown murals is a collaborative piece symbolizing the relationship that De Pere has with its sister city of Amal, Sweden.

Guests of Definitely De Pere, Livdotter and Rygfelt Wilander spent two weeks in De Pere adorning the north side of 115 N. Wisconsin Ave., the new home of XO Fitness, with images of water, friendship and cross-ocean connection.

Amal, Sweden, in the country’s southwest quarter, sits on the shores of Vanern, the largest lake in the European Union.

“Water is close to both cities, so the theme focuses on water,” Rygfelt Wilander said.

Water takes up the greatest portion of the composition.

Near the top of the mural, single strands of bubble-gum pink rope become braided, demonstrating that De Pere and Amal are better together than they are apart.

“We’re showing that collaboration makes us stronger; we (both cities) are both (contributing) to it,” Rygfelt Wilander said.

Definitely De Pere board member Ryan Jennings owns the building, which he recently purchased.

He decided to volunteer it for the mural after at least one mural site fell through.

He called the finished product “magnificent.”

“We couldn’t be prouder to host it on our new building,” Jennings said. “It provides so much color as well as significant awareness that De Pere has a sister city.”

He said he found the artists to be hardworking and easygoing – goodnaturedly painting between raindrops and rolling with the punches when it came to delays in site preparation.

In their professional lives, in addition to paint, Rygfelt Wilander and Livdotter use fabric, among other mediums, and can’t help incorporating its features into other areas of their lives.

“The individual fibers of the rope aren’t steady enough on their own, but rope is stronger than the fiber itself, and braided rope is even stronger than rope,” Livdotter said. “We wanted to use this textile terminology to express our ideas.”

The two left for Sweden earlier this week, but while here, they befriended onlookers and strangers walking by, often roping them into helping out.

It didn’t take much effort.

“Can I really do this?” said Dr. Sadey Broecker, who recently opened Lux Life Chiropractic nearby.

She and Molly Leech, of Crystal Lake, Illinois, added their palm prints to the mural.

Groups of kids stopped by to paint a few waves of water or press their handprints into the wall.

Rygfelt Wilander said the kids added something special to the process.

“It was so fun,” Rygfelt Wilander said. “They were so happy to get to paint, because how often do you get to paint with your hands?”

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