SUBMITTED PHOTO Belvidere Republican
The Arc of Winnebago, Boone and Ogle Counties is proud to announce artists in their program will be completing a large mural at their Rockford office, that will be on display outside the building, facing Perryville Road. The colors and graphics are symbolic of individual disabilities.

This July, if you happen to be driving along Perryville Road in Rockford, you may notice a colorful mural and wonder what it’s all about.

According to The Arc of Winnebago, Boone & Ogle Counties Executive Director Amy Newell, the mural is a reminder that July is Disability Pride Month.

The Arc, which provides a number of opportunities for adults ages 18 and older with disabilities, has a Project Art program, and participant artists have been putting the finishing touches on the mural they plan to display—just in time to highlight Disability Pride Month.

Newell explained that roughly 25 artists worked on the project, and recounted how, when talking to Tyler Yomantas, art and marketing coordinator, “We wanted to do a mural” as one way of participating in Disability Pride Month.”

Newell said the design was Yomantas’s idea, adding, “He came with a few iterations and that’s what we landed on.”

Yomantas narrated that he did “a lot of research” in order to come up with a design that would best represent all individuals with disabilities, adding, “I spent a considerable amount of time looking at other murals.”

However, he continued, he wanted “for it [a design] not to be overly obvious” as to what the mural symbolizes, but rather, “I wanted there to be a little bit of open-ended room for discussion … more room for interpretation.”

And, Yomantas emphasized, he wanted the mural “to bring attention to those invisible disabilities.”

Since The Arc rents its space, Newell said, the artists couldn’t paint anything on the walls, so she turned to Larry, one of The Arc’s volunteers, and asked, “What can we do if we want to do something [like a mural]?”

“Anytime we have a crazy idea, he says, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’” the director added with a laugh.

So he put together four pieces of plywood—measuring 16 feet wide by 8 feet tall—on which the artists could paint their mural, and which will be displayed on the backside of the office, facing Perryville Road.

The mural

The artists’ rendering includes the colors of the disability pride flag, along with symbols that stand for disabilities, according to Newell.

⦁ Green represents sensory disabilities, including blind, deaf and deaf-blind communities.

⦁ Blue represents emotional and psychiatric disabilities.

⦁ White represents non-apparent and undiagnosed disabilities.

⦁ Red represents physical disabilities.

Newell described that the figures include a butterfly, which she said symbolizes “transformation, resilience and diversity.”

The sunflowers, she continued, are “a global symbol for non-visible disabilities.”

The individual in the wheelchair, giving a high-five to a standing individual, is symbolic of “both visible and invisible disabilities coming together,” the director related, and also highlights inclusivity and a celebration of achievements.

The mural will be on display throughout the month of July, according to Newell.

The mural was made possible, in part, through support from The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois and the Rockford Area Arts Council.

About The Arc timeline shows how the organization evolved:

-1953-1973: National Association for Retarded Children (NARC)

-1973-1981: National Association for Retarded Citizens (NARC)

-1981-1992: Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States (ARC)

-1992-present: The Arc of the United States (The Arc)

According to Newell, the national headquarters is located in Washington, D.C. She noted that there are over 600 chapters across the United States.

The Arc of Illinois, located in Mokena, “advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, families and community organizations to ensure that people with disabilities can live, work, learn, and play in communities across the state.

“The Arc offers resources and information, supports families in their individual advocacy efforts and trains and educates people with disabilities, families and professionals, among other things,” according to

Newell said The Arc of Winnebago, Boone & Ogle Counties, which was launched in 1966, serves roughly 400 families each year.

Services include guardianship assistance, home-based support program service facilitation, money management, community outreach and advocacy.

The Arc programs include Project Art, which Newell described as, in part, being “more of a social club,” although participants often sell their work as a way of earning money and also as a fundraiser.

The Aktion Club offers individuals with disabilities an opportunity to volunteer in the community and build leadership skills.

The Next Chapter Book Club meets so participants can read and discuss books together.

Social programs are held to allow participants to gather together for social time and outings.

The Arc also has a number of partnerships, holds fundraising events and offers resources for parents and individuals with a disability.

Newell summed up the work of The Arc, saying, “It’s really been about that advocacy.”

The Arc of Winnebago, Boone & Ogle Counties is located at 2820 McFarland Road, Rockford. For more information, call 815-965-3455, visit or follow them on social media.

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