Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet to grace entrance with 40-foot mural

The Rialto received $85,000 from the FY 22 Route 66 Grant program.

The Rialto Square Theater plans to cover the space where the old Carson’s department store awning hung with a mural.

Steve Randich, president of the Rialto Square Theatre Foundation board, is hoping for mild weather in mid-March.

Because that’s when the Rialto hopes to install a 10-panel, 40-foot mural on the left side of the entrance at 102 N. Chicago Street, which is not part of the building’s original construction in 1926, Randich said.

The Route 66 Rialto Twin Centennial Mural will honor both the Rialto and Route 66, which will turn 100 years old in 2026, Randich said.

Dante DiBartolo, longtime Joliet artist and board member of The Art Movement, created the mural, Randich said.

Randich said the foundation board discussed the possibility of the mural several years ago when Bob Navarro, current CEO of Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau, was on the Rialto Square Theatre Foundation board.

“A lot of people who come for Route 66 walk down downtown,” Randich said. “Unfortunately, the theater is not open every day. People who come to the theater are not able to enjoy being on the inside.”

Navarro said his office recently received $1.5 million of the $4 million from the FY 22 Route 66 Grant program, administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Illinois Office of Tourism, to be used for various local projects.

The grant was able to fund quite a few projects, including the mural, Navarro said. Randich said the Rialto received $85,000 to pay for the mural.

“The interesting thing with this grant is that a match wasn’t required, which was good for us,” Randich said. “We don’t have a ton of money.”

Navarro said the grant covers the entire expense of the mural, from design to installation, and he’s thankful to local legislators for supporting it.

“It’s all paid for,” Navarro said. “Once the weather breaks, they’ll install it on the building. They’re really excited to be able to spruce up that area of the building – but also tell the story about the arts in the community.”

Julia O’Connell sings at the children’s choir rehearsal at the Cathedral of Saint Raymond Nonnatus for the upcoming A Very Rialto Christmas show.

The Route 66 Rialto Twin Centennial Mural shows an encapsulated view of the Rialto, Dale Evans, a member of the Rialto Square Theatre Foundation board, said.

“It’s telling the story of design and building, grand opening, adaptive reuse since the renovation in the ‘80s, and what it means to the community today,” Evans said.

Randich said both sides Rialto entrance were once identical. At some point, the left became a dry goods store with black marble on the façade, he said. Later, Carson’s department store used the space, Randich said.

The Rialto plans to remove the white panels and replace them with black ones, to frame the mural in black, Randich said.

The Rialto Square Theater plans to cover the space where the old Carson’s department store awning hung with a mural.

A framing system will also be installed over a steel channel that once held an awning to protect shoppers, Randich said. This saves the expense of removing the steel channel and filing it in, he said.

So the mural will actually hang slightly out from the building, Randich said.

Randich said local architect Bret Mitchell did some schematic drawings and measurements early in the planning. The foundation then put together a package of numbers that was submitted as part of the grant application, Randich said.

Rialto staff and members of both the Rialto’s authority board and foundation board then met with DiBartolo to discuss mural concepts.

“As I say to people, when you see the mural, you’ll probably want to do another mural,” Randich said. “We’re talking about 100 years of history. It’s hard to get it all in one mural.”

Randich said the mural starts with the six Rubens brothers constructing the Rialto and the opening of the Rialto in 1926. The middle showcases the grassroots efforts of Joliet music teacher Dorothy Mavrich to save theater from demolition in the late 1970s, he said. The right shows how the community uses the theater for high school proms and civic events.

“People think about the Rialto in terms of shows and performances, and certainly that’s what we do,” Randich said. “But as a theater, it’s been such a big part of the history of Joliet for over 100 years.”