Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
The State Theatre in Washington is the oldest continuously operating cinema theater in the world, a fact confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Many people, especially people visiting from out of town, are unaware of that unique designation.
That will change by the end of the week when a 16-foot-high by 14-foot-wide painted mural touting the theater’s history will be installed on the east side of the building.
Washington City Council member Millie Youngquist said that the project has been in the works for a few years now.
“In 2019, we had a goal-setting survey sent out in the city, and one of the things people wanted was more public art,” Youngquist said. “We also made a list of assets in our community. What are the things we can say that we have that nobody else has?
“One of the top things was the history behind the theater, which is the oldest continuously operating cinema theater in the world.”
The decision was made to highlight that designation with an exterior mural.
The question then turned to how to pay for the $13,500 project.
Youngquist said that the city of Washington agreed to put up half of the cost from hotel/motel tax proceeds.
LET’s Center for the Healing and Creative Arts applied for and received a $5,000 grant from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation.
The Washington Area Chamber of Commerce helped raise additional funds with its annual Chair-A-Thon.
“We decided to replace the tube auction that we used to do, where they would decorate water tubes, with chairs,” chamber Events Coordinator Alisha Davis said. “We have almost 30 chairs that people have repurposed and decorated. Those will be auctioned Thursday at the Farmers Market, and proceeds go to the mural project.”
At the recommendation of Main Street America — Washington is a designated Main Street city — Walldogs, a worldwide group of mural artists, was contracted to paint the mural.
The artist team of Nancy Bennett, Jim Oskam and Joy Kjer have been working at Oskam’s studio in Indianola for the past several days creating the mural.
“The mural is designed then projected onto the panels,” Bennett said. “We start painting it, then we install it.”
Oskam said that, normally, the projection and painting are done on site, but with the wall’s location by a busy street, there was not enough room to do the projection.
The weather also played a factor.
“I painted with a team last week in southern Illinois, and the heat index was 101,” Bennett said. “There were four of us, and we each had to take time out because we got really hot.
“When I saw what the heat index would be these days, we talked it over and decided it wasn’t worth ruining anyone’s health. We made the decision to do it inside.”
Oskam said that once the painting is complete, the panels will be disassembled, transported to Washington and reassembled on the theater’s east exterior wall.
“The current plan is to install the mural by the end of the week, but this may be shifted due to the weather changes,” Davis said, adding that the Chamber will post updates on its Facebook page.