Local Artist and Muralist
Story and Interview by Teresa Nguyen
I’m excited for it to be done, but I want it to be right...An artist doesn’t know what a piece will look like until it’s done. It’s my great pleasure to be doing this.” ~ James Richter
James Richter’s latest mural, “Bright Futures”, is being created for the children. The mural, on the side of the Boys and Girls Club facing Festival Street, just across from the Town Square, was commissioned by private donors for the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville. Jim jumped, or should we say was ‘lifted’ right into the task!
A Budding Artist
Jim’s experience with art isn’t anything new. When he was just at child at St. Williams school in Janesville, the nuns noticed his unique and advanced skills.
He had drawn the three wise men and a baby Jesus. But his drawing was quite different from those of the other children. Jim explained, “I drew the Jesus from the three-quarter view. Most kids would draw a face straight on or a profile view.
Jim recalled, “They went to my mom and said, ‘We don’t see this too often. We would recommend that you encourage little Jimmy to draw more! It’s a gift from God and it shouldn’t be wasted.’ And, I believed all that at the time. It was a good starting point!”
Jim Richter on the lift as he paints a 20 x 60 foot mural for the Boys and Girls Club
Photo by Kim Hoholek Photography
Jim received a $500 scholarship when he was a senior at Parker High School, which was a lot in 1973. That allowed him to attend The Layton School of Art in Milwaukee.
Jim’s first mural was on the JC Penney building when the mall was new in 1974. He recalled, “I did some people in polyester or something. Then, I did an oil painting that was blown up and put on the municipal building." That mural reflected Janesville railroad workers in the 1800’s. It is no longer on the building.
Painting by Jim Richter
The Janesville Mural in Doty Mill Alley
In 2016, Jim completed the “Janesville Icons” mural, featuring several iconic Chevy cars, from the ‘55 to the ‘59 Chevy. The 60-foot-long wall mural is an acknowledgement to General Motors of Janesville. It recognizes the 90-year heritage of GM Janesville, a legacy of our local culture.
Also in 2016, Jim Richter brought us the “Janesville” mural, which was part of a Leadership Development Academy group project to beautify Doty Mill Alley, behind the old Dubes Jewelry store and adjacent to the Town Square.
In a postcard-like style, this beautiful mural depicts several iconic Janesville places and events, such as Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Janesville, Parker Pen, General Motors, the Rotary Gardens and the Rock Aqua Jays waterski team. It has become a favorite Janesville selfie spot for local residents and visitors alike.
Jim Richter painting the "Janesville Icons" mural
In September of 2020, Jim Richter began another exciting project – an eye popping downtown mural in the alley behind West Milwaukee St., between Festival St. and S. Franklin St. This whimsical, fun design, titiled "Keep Looking Up" brought us such a positive message in the midst of the 2020 pandemic. Jim noted, "More than any other time, this sums up the sentiment I think we all feel." He began a fundraising campaign to help cover the costs and used only a 2 inch brush to paint the entire 3 story, colorful mural!
“Keep Looking Up” depicts a young girl looking up to watch a sky full of rising balloons. There is a nod to a carefree, dancing Elvis, which Jim decided to paint next to the colorful bars over a window, representing the King of Rock’s tune “Jailhouse Rock”. Under the window is a vent pipe, which Jim painted yellow, as a nod to The Beatles’ tune, “Yellow Submarine”. Each of these fun songs reflect a kind of happy-go-lucky spirit we all truly yearned for in 2020.
Jim Richter with his original painting, "Keep Looking Up"
Project for the Children
Jim’s newest colorful wall of art, “Bright Futures”, is in the heart of downtown Janesville and embraces the concept of our children reaching for and dreaming of a future that is within their reach. On the left, a couple of children are pointing toward graduation caps, in both Parker green and Craig blue, floating out on bright beams from a treasure chest. There’s a basketball to represent sports, sometimes a large part of a child’s life, "And," Jim smiled, "It happened to be a year when the Bucks won the NBA Championship!"
Jim Richter describes the meaning in his latest mural
Then, as your eyes move around, you see a floating planet earth. Jim reflects, “The earth belongs to our children. Some people make fun of climate change as if it’s a joke. But it’s not funny to young people. We’re not going to be here in sixty years, but they are. This earth belongs to them.”
Below that, you’ll see books, which are so important for a child’s education, a paint pallete and a piano keyboard representing the arts. To the right of the mural is a beautiful child, dreaming of a bright future, enhanced by fluttering butterflies in the sky. These are all themes of encouragement, not only for the kids in the Boys and Girls club, but for children everywhere.
Kids of all ages have approached Jim to talk about it, telling him their favorite parts. Jim commented, “The kids love it!” The yoga classes have even come out to work out in front of Jim as he’s painting the mural. He laughed saying, “I was up there making gestures and moves along with them.” Jim's great sense of humor is never-ending!
Jim’s murals tend to have such a positive feel. His colors pop, the murals are eye-catching, filled with detail and always brings out positivity, whether it’s about Janesville, or a message like his “Keep Looking Up” mural he painted during the challenging coronavirus pandemic. And now, with his newest mural, one can't help but feel a sense of hope for our future generations.
He remarked, “I try to be positive. Maybe I’m not when it comes to politics. But, in general, I’m a positive person.
Jim said he tends to get neurotic about the details adding, “Every night I climb down and stand on the sidewalk, a good distance from the mural, and look at it. That usually helps me relax when I see it as a whole.
I’m excited for it to be done, but I want it to be right. My goal was to be done in just a couple of weeks, but it may take a bit longer. An artist doesn’t know what a piece will look like until it’s done. It’s my great pleasure to be doing this.”
Jim Richter's Bright Futures mural on the side of the Boys and Girls Club
Follow Jim Richter Paintings on Facbook
This special message was posted on the Boys and Girls Club Facebook page,
Wow! We are so excited to see this long-awaited project gain some momentum. Every day our Club members and staff are amazed at the progress and beauty that will help showcase our Club and mission so wonderfully.
This wouldn't be possible without the support of Dr. Gregg and Helen Dickinson.
Thank you, Jim Richter and Dr. Gregg & Helen Dickinson for joining in this adventure with us and helping us realize our vision!”
We, as a community, are thankful that artist Jim Richter continues to share his amazing talent, beautifying our community!