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Willmar, Minn., artist's new painting has special significance to him and the community

A small-town parade scene is depicted in a 7½-foot-by-12-foot mural completed by Willmar artist Ron Adams in October 2012. The mural is displayed at the Willmar Public Library, where Adams will be honored at an open house reception Saturday afternoon. (Tribune photos by Ron Adams)1 / 2
Ron Adams paints details on his self-portrait in August which is part of his 12-foot parade mural. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)2 / 2

WILLMAR -- In many ways, Ron Adams' newest painting, a 7½-foot-by-12-foot depiction of a small-town parade scene, serves as a fitting tribute not only to the local area, but to his own life as well.

While describing his latest project -- which took nearly a year and a half to complete -- he mentions all the people in his life who are featured in the painting: his brother, a few of his good friends, his dog Jimi, his two daughters Ema and Jamie, and his late wife, Linda -- the true inspiration behind the painting. Because of his wife's commitment to libraries, Adams will display the painting at the Willmar Public Library in her honor.

"This painting is really a memorial to Linda," Adams said. "She loved libraries. She did displays at the library all the time and really believed in the library. I, too, believe in the library."

A public opening for the painting, titled "Parade Watchers," will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Willmar Public Library in downtown Willmar.

The concept of the painting comes from the many times Adams has gone to parades around the Willmar region. As a photographer for the West Central Tribune, Adams often takes parade photos for the newspaper. Over the last year, he's used his time at parades to make observations and gather ideas for his painting.

"When I go to a parade, I watch people more than I do the parade," Adams said. "I really wanted this painting to be diverse and represent the local community."

Before starting the painting, Adams sketched out a rough idea of what he wanted the finished product to look like. He used photographs of people that he'd taken at parades over the years, as well as pictures he took specifically for the painting, to construct the scene.

"It's a collection of so many different pictures," Adams said. Some photos are recent and others are decades old, such as the photos of both of his daughters, who are children in the painting but are now adults in real life.

One of the hardest parts of the project was its sheer size, Adams said. The painting covers two canvases and is one of the largest paintings he has ever done.

"I had to figure out how to scale each of the pictures I took so that they would all fit together," Adams said. "There was quite a bit of math involved."

To help with costs for the project, Adams received a $7,000 legacy grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council.

After the public opening, the painting will be permanently displayed at the Willmar Public Library. Adams hopes the painting may inspire others to pick up a paint brush; much like a public painting did for him when he was young.

"When I was a kid performing in the boys' choir, we had a concert at the Willmar City Auditorium. I remember rehearsing in a room with a painting covering the upper level of the room. That painting has been an inspiration to me all my life," Adams said. "I'm hoping that my painting could be an inspiration to other young artists in this area, too."

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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