Hospitality workers sometimes go to great lengths to create a memorable experience—and sometimes, to great heights.
Artist Lauran (Bly) Bryant went above and beyond her waitstaff duties at Medici restaurant when, as a young employee, she was commissioned to paint the 25-foot tree mural on the northwest corner of their Uptown Normal building.
She ascended the façade on a scissor lift over the course of a week in August 2010, equipped with chalk (for outlining), primer, exterior house paint, acrylic paint and a clear topcoat, each in turn.
A dozen years later during a return trip to Normal in July 2022, the artist paid a visit to her Medici mural.
Her artwork has held up remarkably well and endured several changes to the surrounding business district. After all, Uptown Normal was in the midst of significant redevelopment when (Bly) Bryant painted the tree—which was conceived as a metaphor for growth.
The late restaurant owner Hans Morsbach thought a tree mural facing College Avenue would help draw people to Medici, which fronts North Street.
“He had a true vision of what the Medici Tree was meant to represent,” the artist recalls.
Word of the mural idea spread quickly among restaurant staff. A recent graduate of Illinois State University, (Bly) Bryant was eager to win the commission.
She pitched this mission statement to the restaurant’s owners and managers:
“My goal is to bring Medici’s inner beauty to the community [and] further express the contemporary harmony of Uptown Normal. The tree represents a unique story of eternal growth and strength that is Medici.”
The famous physical tree inside the Medici building and its stylized depiction in the restaurant logo both inspired the mural’s design.
“The color palette reflects an aged bronze and copper-tones look,” (Bly) Bryant shares. “I wanted it [to be] colorful yet subtle, and complementary to the existing wall color.”
The project posed some unique challenges —namely, the sheer size and the sweltering summer sun.
Although this was a solo commission, (Bly) Bryant says she didn’t accomplish this feat alone.
Nick Rude of Nick’s Construction & Remodeling provided power washing services and lift equipment. And Angey Jo Goudie’s graphic design company created the images for the presentation to management.
Nowadays, (Bly) Bryant continues to engage her artistic eye and spirit of service through woodworking. Currently employed with Woodland Home Marketplace in Eaton, Colorado (www.woodlandhomemarketplace.com) (Bly) Bryant manages the Reclaimed Lumberyard and Wood Shop, applying color theory to custom finishes and consulting with clients on design.
“I’ve always have had a passion and appreciation for the arts,” she says. “Art becomes a part of you, and you just find ways to do it.”