15 murals, four jam-packed days, and about 200 extraordinary artists…the Walldogs are coming to town! Is Keene really ready for the Magical History Tour that’s about to take place June 20-23?
And what’s a Walldog you ask??? The word comes from a time when all of the signs on doors, trucks, and advertisement boards were painstakingly painted by hand. Sign shops would have dozens of skilled artists lettering signs at a time, but there were also specialized artists who went out into the field to paint larger-scale works on billboards and buildings. They were known as Wallldogs.
Flash forward to 2019…though decals and ads might be printed digitally nowadays, a unique group of artists called the Walldogs remains dedicated to the art of old-fashioned mural painting. Each year they descend upon one lucky town, bringing talent and timelessness with them. This year, that town is Keene.
Local signmaker and owner of Keen Signworx, Peter Poanessa, is the man behind the idea for this June’s Magical History Tour festival, which will take over the town of Keene for three days of mural painting and celebration of the Monadnock region’s history.
“People will come that have never been exposed to this before; they’ll fall in love with it and they want to know: Where’s next year’s festival?” Poanessa says. He’s thrilled to welcome renowned artists from all over the country and the world for this radical event.
“I know all the artists. I know their talents…many of them are real mentors and heroes of mine,” he explains. For Keene’s Magical History Tour, Poanessa carefully selected painters to oversee the design and creation of 15 epic murals, which will be painted directly on the brick of several prominent buildings in town.
The themes for the murals were brainstormed by the festival team, alongside members of the Historical Society of Cheshire County. Then the public was invited to vote on the final designs to be featured. Locals also sent in stories and pictures to help with the historical accuracy of the murals, which range in theme from the region’s railroad to famed marathon runner, Clarence DeMar.
“Look at all these incredible people that were here before us. These are kind of our ancestors…We look back now and realize they were really special people,” Poanessa describes. He can’t imagine what it will be like to walk around his beloved city of Keene for the rest of his life, soaking up the magic of the incredible artwork that will live here forever.
Poanessa himself has had the opportunity to leave such a mark in town. He is the designer behind the “Welcome to Keene” mural featured on Prime Roast Coffee Company’s roastery facility on Marlboro Road.
The mural is painted in the style of a ghost sign, a term used to refer to “wall-painted advertisements that have faded away to the point where you can still see them, but they’re almost gone,” he explains. The roastery’s mural, painted in that style, has become the most popular sign Poanessa has ever created.
It received an incredible response on social media from locals and visitors alike and has become a focal point in the region. Poanessa expects that the work of the Walldogs will have the same effect on a far grander scale.
He says the festival “really has this opportunity to make Keene a completely different place…There’s not only an incredible outdoor art gallery…but there’s this kind of new sense of pride in the community.”
For a sneak peek at the mural designs and to see a full schedule of the festival’s events, which includes painting classes, an artisan’s market, live music, and more, visit www.facebook.com/Walldogs-in-Keene-423488308049051or www.walldogsinkeene.com.