A community mural celebrating the arts in downtown Lanesboro. Over 200 community members participated in the creation process and helped paint the mural with artist Erik Pearson in October 2019.
Lanesboro Arts and Commonweal Theatre Company brought together over 200 community members of all ages in October 2019 to participate in the creation process of a large-scale Theatre District Mural to be installed on the south wall of the building at 204 Parkway Ave. N. in downtown Lanesboro.
Due to the mural creation process taking longer than expected, paired with uncooperative weather, the installation of the mural will be delayed until 2020. Lanesboro Arts Advancement Director Kara Maloney states, “We want to do this right to ensure that this unique piece of public art can be enjoyed by our community as long as it possibly can.” The installation will include a proper dedication, community-wide festivities, and interpretative signage to contextualize the mural for passers-by.
The mural’s design was painted onto parachute cloth, a canvas-like material, and has been rolled up and placed into storage. In 2020, the painted cloth will be installed at its final location adjacent to the St. Mane Theatre and Commonweal Theatre in a manner similar to applying wallpaper. Lanesboro is a unique rural community, in that it is home to two active theatres on its main street. Designed by artist Erik Pearson, with community input and ideas from a May 2019 brainstorming meeting, the Theatre District Mural celebrates the performing arts and highlights both theatres, but also honors and reflects the Lanesboro community’s rich heritage and traditions.
“Community is public art’s raw material,” shares Lanesboro Arts Co-Director Adam Wiltgen. “We are thrilled to be partnering with an artist like Erik Pearson who has experience bringing a community’s vision and ideas to life through an engaging design and painting process.”
During the brainstorming meeting, community stakeholders drew pictures of ideas for the mural, as well as wrote key aspects that they wanted represented in the design. Common themes were that people wanted the history of Lanesboro represented honoring nature, agriculture, townspeople, cultural and generational diversity, and more. Participants voiced opinions for the design to be bright, welcoming, inspiring, and colorful. The design Pearson created includes both fictional and real people from Lanesboro based off research and historical photos.
“A supportive community is what makes theatre and the arts possible. It is very fitting that Pearson’s design focuses on the audience and that the creation process is open and accessible to all,” says Hal Cropp, Executive Director of Commonweal Theatre.
Lanesboro Arts and Commonweal Theatre’s goals for the mural are to encourage walkability to the north side of Parkway Avenue, contribute to a sense of community pride and strengthen collaborative efforts to beautify the community. The Theatre District Mural is the seventh community-engaged, public art project in Lanesboro, following the 2001/2011 Bronze Medallion Tour, 2005 Commonweal Construction Wall Mural, 2014 Lanesboro Library Mural, 2014 Haiku Poetry Parking Lot, 2017 “Colors of Bluff Country” Mural on the back of the St. Mane Theatre, and the 2017 mosaic mural on the side of Pedal Pushers Cafe.
Pearson believes public art is more accessible to all – including those who perhaps wouldn’t go to a gallery or theater. Pearson shares his excitement, “When art is everywhere, it changes the meaning and feeling of the downtown area and makes people explore more.”
In 2001, as the first Artist in Residence at Lanesboro Arts, Erik Pearson taught a community drawing class, gave art presentations in the Lanesboro Schools and worked on a series of paintings. Pearson was invited back to Lanesboro in 2005 to create a 56-foot-long, 12-foot-high mural — his first — on a safety wall surrounding the construction area of the Commonweal Theatre. Currently, Pearson works full time as an established artist in Saint Paul, MN.
Lanesboro Arts and Commonweal Theatre were supported in this project through a “Paint the Town” grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation in partnership with Ace Hardware, who supplied 29 gallons of paint for the mural.
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