Superheroes stand tall in downtown Dixon

Nora Reuter puts a base coat on Superman Monday, June 24, 2024 in Dixon. Reuter has been painting bike posts in the downtown, unveiling their super identities.

DIXON – By painting the bike posts in downtown Dixon to represent colorful superheroes, local artist Nora Reuter is working to transform city necessities into works of art.

Reuter, a Dixon native, got together with Discover Dixon’s Arts Coalition and approached the City Council with the idea. With the council’s approval, the project was budgeted through the city’s arts and culture fund, and a plan was drawn up for 12 bike posts starting on the corner of First Street and Peoria Avenue, continuing east down First Street, and ending at Commerce Towers at 215 E. First St. in Dixon.

The Arts Coalition is facilitated by Discover Dixon and is made up of eight active members who represent different art organizations, such as The Next Picture Show and Rosbrook Studio. The group meets monthly to come up with projects that will enhance the arts and culture community in Dixon, said Amanda Wike, executive director at Discover Dixon.

Reuter was inspired after seeing other cities paint their electrical boxes and fire hydrants. She liked how the artists had taken something functional and turned it into a work of art, she said.

In 2022, she got together with Jeremy Englund, former executive director of Discover Dixon and leader of the Arts Coalition, and pitched him her idea. Reuter and Englund decided to try it out by painting the bike post in front of Alley Loop on South Hennepin Avenue to look like Batman. After they saw how well the paint held up over time, the real planning began.

Reuter started by reaching out to Paper Escape, a local comic bookstore, to help her choose which superheroes to paint. At the same time, city workers began sanding and priming many of the bike racks to get them ready for Reuter to paint.

Some of the featured characters include Superman, Iron Man, the Hulk, Wonder Woman and Captain America.

Reuter said she hopes to have them all done before the Petunia Festival, which is from July 3 to 7. However, the completion time for each post varies because she is using oil-based enamel spray paint, which requires a lot of drying time. That’s why she’s created a setup on wheels for the project. Reuter hauls her gear in a wagon from post to post, allowing her “to paint a little, move on and paint another, and then come back,” she said.

Some of the posts will take about two to three days to fully cure, meaning the paint has hardened and fully bonded to the surface it’s applied to, which is why “it’s super important that people try not to use them for a bit,” Reuter said.

Once the paint is fully cured, she can add a sealant to protect the artwork. If the posts are left untouched throughout the painting process, the art should last 10 to 15 years.

“If over the years I see they might need touch-ups, I’d take it upon myself to do so,” Reuter said.

Reuter has done a lot of different projects in Dixon and other neighboring towns, but the majority of her work can be found in Chicago. She lived in the city for a bit before returning to her hometown of Dixon in 2018, but she still goes to Chicago “at least every other month to knock out a couple of jobs,” she said.

Last week, Reuter was in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood painting the Chicago flag onto the patio fence at Kirkwood’s, a sports bar.

Although she enjoys going to Chicago, she said, “I very much prefer to stay local and make art for my hometown,” noting that many pedestrians and business owners have been really nice and complimentary of her work.

“I love the camaraderie between people in smaller communities. We all have a tendency to speak to each other like old neighbors when we’re in person,” Reuter said.

In Dixon, two of Reuter’s most popular projects have been murals: the petunias at Meraki Spa Salon on West River Street and the wings at Balayti’s Auto, an automotive shop on West First Street.

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Payton Felix

Payton Felix

Payton Felix reports on local news in the Sauk Valley for the Shaw Local News Network. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2023.