Past, present, future together at Rose and Taylor

Past, present, future together at Rose and Taylor

CHAMPAIGN — Quenton Hillsman doesn't have any hair. It doesn't make sense that he'd turn up in a barbershop.

But he did on Wednesday to look at an 11- or 12-year-old version of himself with his baseball uniform, ball cap and determined eyes. The 1960s photo of his Little League team — and many other photos from prior decades — are now crystallized in a mural in the narrow hallway of the Rose and Taylor Barber and Beauty salon on North First Street.

"I just found out about it," Hillsman said. "It's pretty neat."

The Rose and Taylor barbershop mural, for which the shop had a reception Wednesday, is something that owner William Jones hopes will encourage people to appreciate the North First Street corridor's history and look forward to its future.

The mural itself is a product of a University of Illinois art and design class project and includes an interactive component to recognize the rich history of the immediate area, said UI Professor Kevin Hamilton. North First Street historically has been a center of black-owned businesses.

Jones said as many as 40 businesses once lined First Street between University Avenue and Washington Street. The number has declined in recent decades, but those remaining have bright hopes for the future.

"That was the idea in mind," Jones said. "To have a portal to connect the past to the present and what's going to happen in the future."

The themes in the mural reflect that: Photos dug out from local archives are printed on a scroll that runs down the hallway. Starting at the barbershop entrance, the photos date as far back as 1920. The photos become newer as you walk down the hallway.

The end of the hallway remains blank to symbolize the unwritten future.

"They see the value of what used to be, what is, and what shall be," Jones said.

Customers have had fun with it, too.

"Already people are coming in and saying, 'Oh, that's me,'" Hamilton said. "They're seeing themselves."

Moira Dukes, who works in the Locks of Glory salon attached to the barbershop, said one of her older clients spotted herself marching in a parade as a member of a color guard group. She started identifying others in the photos, too.

"It can take them back to that time," Dukes said. "The memories will come back to them."

The mural is a history lesson, too. Those who might not recognize the photos can use their smartphones to learn about the scenes in an "augmented reality" experience.

With the Aurasma smartphone app, users can hover over a photo. The app, which recognizes the photo, automatically adds a caption and links the user to a page describing what is taking place in the image.

Anyone can edit the wiki page if they have something to add. There is also a book placed near the mural at the barbershop for anyone to write in if they are in the pictures or can identify anyone in the pictures.

Jones hopes other businesses will take on similar projects. He is encouraging the public to come in and look at the mural at the barbershop at 124 N. First St., C.

"It energizes me," he said. "It excites me."

He said the mural shows that the legacy of those who came before him on North First Street lives on. He believes the area's business community is still making strides.

"Our best days are yet ahead," Jones said. "The best is yet to come."

History lesson

Among the many images of local African-American history you'll see on the walls of the Rose and Taylor Barber and Beauty salon:

— A person protesting discrimination outside the J.C. Penney store in downtown Champaign.

— Band members marching in a parade.

— Shots of businesses such as Brown's Cafe and D'Ghanza Beauty Salon.

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