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Hey Heidi: Is that a painting or a wall covering in Alton?

8:37 AM, Jul 18, 2013   |    comments
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By Heidi Glaus

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Stretching about four and a half stories high, it's a rather large passion project.

"The rotary got permission to do this big mural, but they didn't have a subject and a member of rotary club remembered seeing these water colors in my house," explained Mike Eckhard, an artist born and raised in Alton.

He has admired steamboats since he was a young boy.

"We were out on the Mississippi early in the morning and out of nowhere came the Delta Queen," Eckhard said.

So when the Rotary Club wanted to use his image he was thrilled, he also knew just the guy to paint it.

"It is absolutely the biggest painting we've done together," he added.

The two have worked together for more than 20 years on all kinds of projects.

"Really cool stuff too, like new products for Ralston Purina, Eveready Battery," Rip Kastaris explained.

You see, for years Eckhard was an art director for an advertising agency and Kastaris was his go to guy.

"This was actually described to Rip over the telephone," Eckhard pointed out, holding a painting.

Of course Rip has a rather impressive resume as well including a mural he was commissioned to do for the 2004 Olympics.

"It's one of the only permanent pieces in the stadium," Kastaris said.

In 2010, however, it was all about Alton.

"He had to transfer my image to the building," Eckhard said.

It's something that required a map.

"It's like playing battleship over three, down two," Kastaris joked.

And took five and a half months to complete.

"It was great and people were so curious about what was going on," Kastaris added.

The thing is even at 70 feet by 40 something feet there's still a bigger picture.

"We let all the kids from Alton put their thumbprint on it! We made these fish shapes and inked them up and they put all these fish shapes at the bottom of the water and their grandparents took pictures of them," Kastaris explained.

A picture of a community coming together to get it done.


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