GREEN BAY – The first time Tracie Speca-Ventura and Camille Speca toured the club level of Lambeau Field, they asked themselves one simple question.
What are we going to put on these walls?
The architects of Sports & the Arts had ample experience illuminating stadiums and arenas across the country with artwork, but few matched the history of the Packers.
Working hand-in-hand with the organization over the past two years, the sisters-in-law put together a team of artists – both local and throughout the country – to illustrate the story of one of America’s most iconic franchises.
The fruits of those labors finally came to light this week with the unveiling of more than 500 pieces of artwork, photos and graphics decorated around Lambeau Field’s interior.
A stroll through the fourth, fifth and sixth level of the club area will give fans a chance to relive some of the franchise’s greatest moments through a medley of mixed media paintings, collages and renderings.
“I remember the very first time I walked through some of the areas and saw some of the artwork – it took my breath away,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said. “Obviously the Packers have great history and tradition. I think our fans will really relate to this. It celebrates our history and our tradition in a very different way. I think the passion of our fans will really come through when they see this.”
Packers director of ticketing and premium seating Jason McDonough and director of brand and marketing Joan Malcheski spearheaded the venture, the culmination of the Packers’ two-year, $55 million suite renovation.
Driven to enhance the game-day experience for fans, the organization became familiar with SATA’s efforts after seeing its visual contributions to other venues, including the recently opened Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
While SATA brought 19 artists on board for the project, Malcheski and Speca spent countless days digging through thousands of negatives in the Green Bay Press-Gazette archives to further illustrate the project. They also partnered with the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay.
The deep dive resulted in more than 350 images that were utilized in the project, many of which hadn’t been seen since the early 1900s.
“We took our history, tried to condense it as much as possible and present it in a unique and dynamic way that our fans could probably appreciate,” McDonough said. “You might have a grandfather and a grandson walking the hallways and potentially see a story or a player that the grandfather can communicate to the grandson.”
Since not every moment of the Packers’ nearly 100-year history was commemorated with photos, SATA’s artists worked closely with Packers historian Cliff Christl and Packers Hall of Fame curator Brent Hensel to help re-create some of the early moments in franchise history, including the team’s train ride back to Green Bay after capturing the 1929 NFL championship.
Tom Mosser, who worked closely with Christl on a few items, researched the style of clothing worn at the time, how the trains were designed and other small details to bring the forgotten eras to life on canvas.
Mosser has worked with SATA for the past 10 years, but felt a personal connection to the project. Although Mosser is a native of Pittsburgh, he and his parents, Al and Faye, were lifelong Packers fans.
One of nine artists with connections to either Wisconsin or the Packers, Mosser brought the knitted cap he wore as a child to Green Bay for Wednesday’s unveiling, along with a family Christmas card from the early 1970s with him wearing a Packers sweatershirt.
While Al and Faye have since passed away, Mosser gets emotional at the thought of having his work showcased inside Lambeau Field.
“I was a kid in Central Pennsylvania and was all about the Packers,” said Mosser, whose painting of Hagemeister Park is one of the first images greeting Packers fans on the fourth floor of the club level.
“Of course, my parents, they followed suit. My mom loved Brett Favre and she would be thrilled about this. I get emotional because they’d get a huge kick out of this.”
Strengthening the Wisconsin ties, Speca-Ventura commissioned Green Bay artist Lesley Etters after discovering her work at a local restaurant and sought out Kewaskum’s Dan Gerhartz after noticing some of his classical artwork.
Gerhartz never had painted sports, but immediately jumped at the opportunity to paint legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi. He contributed a trio of paintings near the center of the club level’s fourth floor, including the unmistakable image of Henry Jordan and Willie Davis hoisting Lombardi on their shoulders after the Packers’ 1966 NFL Championship win.
“I was thrilled,” Gerhartz said. “I grew up in Wisconsin and had always been a Packers fan. How could I not be excited to marry what I love with something that I’m so passionate about?”
There also was a contest for art students at the middle school, high school and college level with winners receiving a $5,000 donation to their school’s art program.
Reflecting on final project, both Murphy and Speca-Ventura playfully acknowledged Lambeau Field will be difficult to top for SATA.
With the project complete, it’s the organization’s hope the artwork and photographs will further strengthen the Packers’ strong bond with the community and continue to connect generations of fans.
“This puts the shine on the crown jewel of Lambeau Field,” Malcheski said. “We look forward to hearing stories from fans if they recognize somebody in the photo. If they have a connection – that’s my grandfather in the 1957 stadium parade. We want to know those stories. We encourage people to contact us because we want to fill our history book with as much history as we can.”
The Packers have preliminary plans in the works to offer an art tour to their array of guided stadium tours.