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"Atta Boy Franker"

You might be surprised by what high school students are thinking and doing during these uncertain and strange times.  They spend less time on the minutia of what they can’t do and focus instead on what they can do.  What they are doing can serve as valuable life lessons for us all. 

Zachery Franker is a student with a passion, a path, and currently one heck of a painting project going on.  Zachery is a senior at Hanover Central High School, and like many high school students, he has a job in Cedar Lake, but it is far more than just a job.  Zachery’s passion for the community and his employer are intertwined and now visible for all to see.

When Vito’s Italian Ice opened in Cedar Lake, Zach went in and introduced himself to the new owners, Dave and Amy Larson.  “I knew that Vito’s was a special place from the start, and I felt it could last forever.  I loved the vibe they had created, and I offered to create a piece of art for them to hang up in the shop.  I wanted to make them an Andy Warhol piece,” explained Zach.

picture of graffiti on a whall

The building mural at Vito's Italian Ice looked more like graffiti in the beginning, but over the course of the summer a transformation took place that stands as a testament to a student's talent and imagination.  

Zach continued to visit Vito’s, developing a relationship with the owners, and ultimately becoming an employee at the popular shop.  “I had almost forgotten about the artwork I had offered, until one night when Amy texted me and asked if I knew how to paint a mural,” said Zach.  In fact, Zach had never painted anything larger than a poster board, but unwilling to disappoint Amy and with the confidence only found in the young, Zach agreed to transform the side of the brick building into something that reflected the 50’s theme of Vito’s.  “I went home that day and started drawing out small sketches of the wall.  I remembered seeing a movie poster for “Animal House” that had all the characters stacked in the house.  I thought that it would be cool if the wall resembled the poster by having a bunch of faces like Louis Armstrong, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe across it.  I also knew that it would be very important to include cars and music,” explained Zach.  From that inspiration and those focused thoughts, the plan for the wall began to take shape.

picture of drawing on a wall

Zachery Franker's vision begins to take shape in an outline of what was to come.

In July, Zach began working on the wall and hasn’t lacked encouragement or motivation.  Cedar Lake itself is a motivator.  “I know this is huge for us,” said Zach of the Italian ice shop unlike any other business in Cedar Lake.  “I want to help make Vito’s a monument of Cedar Lake.  People will forever know it as the place that has amazing Italian ice, amazing owners and a giant mural on the side of it,” he said.  Friends and family help Zach stay motivated.  Many drive by and scream out of their cars; “Atta Boy Franker!”  Zachery has even had people he doesn’t know scream and honk at him as he goes about creating something really special in the town that he loves. 

mural painting in progress

By late summer the mural is clearly going to be something very special.

Zach’s drawing skills became apparent early when he drew a picture of his Mom in crayon at the age of 5.  Moving on, he began drawing pictures in pencil and did it for so long that when it came time to paint, the skill came easily to him.  “I just did what I normally did with a pencil, except it was with a brush."  Will painting become Zach’s career path?  That is a pretty hard no.  “People have always said that they think I should at least do murals and painting on the side for extra money, but it won’t be fun anymore if it becomes a career.  I always have, and I always will create pieces that are appealing to me and not what others want to see.”

mural painting on wall

Details of legends of the 50's are clearly visible as Zachery Franker continues his work on the Vito's wall mural. 

Zach’s chosen career path is instead a completely different art form.   “It would be a dream to attend IU Bloomington to study film,” said Zach, adding; “It isn’t a matter of I want to be a film director, it's I am going to be a film director.”  Cinema and music are the forms of art that he is most passionate about.  He writes and directs short films and skits in his free time.  Like many in the world of film, art and music, Zachery has a built-in philanthropic side.  His words prove especially apropos in this time.

young man by a wall mural

Zachery Franker will leave a lasting mark on the town of Cedar Lake when his mural is completed later this fall or early next spring.  Atta Boy Franker!

“This mural is for them (Amy and Dave Larson) and the town of Cedar Lake.  I’m not doing this for me.  I would like to encourage other artists to keep creating.  We live in strange times and it seems like things can’t get better, but we have to make something out of what we are given and turn it into art.  Keep practicing, do it your own way, and don’t let anything get in the way.”