Portage historic coloring book proves to be a hit

January 4, 2019

Portage’s Historic Preservation Commission has a hit on its hands.

A coloring book featuring line drawings of 12 historic Portage homes has proven to be a popular item — so popular, the commission voted unanimously Wednesday to print 500 more.

The question of what to do for an encore remains open, as does whether the next project should be free, as the coloring book is.

“I heard, ‘How much are these?’ right away,” commission member Kyle Little said.

He said that’s indication people would have been willing to pay for the current coloring book, and they might be willing to pay — or make voluntary donations — for a future project, like another coloring book or a calendar.

Doug Klapper, chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, said the timing of the release — right around the December holidays — created demand the commission had not anticipated.

“There was a mad rush for them,” said Klapper, who was designated as a principal contact for people who wanted a coloring book.

Other commissioners, including Little and Fred Galley, said they still have a few books left.

Five hundred were printed, Klapper said. A pile of them was quickly depleted at the Dec. 13 Portage Common Council meeting.

According to Klapper, 50 coloring books apiece were distributed to the Portage Area Chamber of Commerce, the Portage Public Library and the Portage Municipal Building. Officials at the Chamber and the municipal building have requested additional copies because all of theirs are gone, he said.

Plans also called for making the coloring books available in the spring, when the seasons open at the Museum at the Portage, the Historic Indian Agency House and the Fort Winnebago Surgeons’ Quarters. In addition, Klapper said, the commission planned to make sets of the coloring books available to Portage classrooms, to be used to teach local history.

Little said it’s likely the additional 500 books to be printed will go as fast as the first 500.

That raised two questions: Should the commission take on another coloring project next year? And if so, should the product be distributed free or offered for a fee or a suggested donation?

Klapper said he would have to ask Portage City Administrator Shawn Murphy, but it’s his understanding that a fee or donation collected for a commission-sponsored project likely would be distributed to the city’s general fund, with no guarantee the money would come back to the historic preservation commission.

Commissioner Anna Krause — the North Freedom artist who created the line drawings for the coloring book — asked about the commission’s annual budget, and Klapper said it runs a little more than $3,000 for all of the commission’s activities.

The commission bore the costs of producing and printing the coloring books.

The financial costs of producing the coloring book and any future projects would need to be considered, Krause said, but added, “I think it’s nice to give them away free.”

Krause was paid $700 for the city to acquire the rights to the coloring book drawings, and the cost of the first printing of 500 copies ran an additional $585. Commissioners directed Klapper to ask the printer whether there might be a price break available for the second printing.

The Portage Historical Society contributed to the project, Klapper said, by providing information on each of the featured houses.

The coloring book also included a map of the houses, and a glossary of historic architecture terms.

The coloring book includes 12 images because the original idea was to create a coloring calendar, Krause said.

Maybe the next project will be a 2020 calendar, commissioners said.

Or, suggested commissioner Crystal Thom, it could feature parks or landmarks, with the parks and recreation commission helping to choose the images.

“The parks here are really, really pretty,” she said. “Doing a calendar with parks would be absolutely beautiful.”

Galley suggested creating a coloring book or calendar with historic business buildings. He said there’s plenty of information available about the structures from many sources, including a book produced for the city’s 150th anniversary in 1994.

The commission made no decision about a future project, but members vowed to continue the discussion at the next meeting Feb. 6.

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