The painted-over mural — a vision for better results

A guest commentary about public art that reflects its place in the world.

A few months ago, national beer company Pabst Blue Ribbon and downtown Stillwater bar the Freight House decided they wanted to spruce up an ugly wall on the bar’s property. They hired an artist and designer from St. Paul to create a design featuring the beer company’s products.

The artist came up with an Old West scene, including a cowboy, cacti, a train, a radiant sun shining over the desert landscape and Pabst beer cans and bottles.

Located near one of the main pedestrian routes between Main Street and the St. Croix River, a mural would be seen by many of the town’s visitors. To preserve downtown Stillwater’s unique character, any such project needs approval from the Heritage Preservation Commission. The Freight House didn’t seek that permission. The artist spent two weeks working on the mural.

When it was almost finished, the city told the Freight House it did not reflect the historic time period when downtown was developed and therefore must be removed. The bar painted it over — without even telling the artist.

Client

St. Paul Pioneer Press