Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Alley-side art in Faribault May 3, 2021

Faribault’s newest mural, completed late last year.

OUTDOOR PUBLIC ART enhances a community. It provides an outlet for creativity, adds interest to place and often brings joy. At least that’s my assessment.

As someone who grew up in rural southwestern Minnesota with minimal exposure to the arts—or perhaps more accurately minimal opportunity in the arts—I deeply appreciate the arts.

This sculptor of Alexander Faribault trading with a Dakota trading partner stands in Faribault’s Heritage Park near the Straight River and site of Faribault’s trading post. Faribault artist Ivan Whillock created this sculpture which sits atop a fountain known as the Bea Duncan Memorial Fountain. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

My community of Faribault, where I’ve lived for the past 39 years, embraces creativity, centered today at the Paradise Center for the Arts. Yet, the visual arts extend well beyond the walls of the Paradise to stained glass windows in our historic churches, an art collection at Buckham Memorial Library, sculptures, architecture, home-grown shops, historic-themed murals and even the graceful curves of the historic viaduct.

In this January 2016 photo taken from the viaduct, you can see the back of The Upper East Side (white stucco building) before the mural was added. The historic building originally housed W.H. Stevens Drug. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

You can see Faribault’s newest addition to the outdoor art scene from that viaduct, which offers a sweeping view of the downtown area.

Visual layering is part of this mural.

But I viewed this latest public art close up from an alley. On the back and sides of The Upper East Side, an art and gallery space at 213 Central Avenue, Morristown area artist Jeff Jarvis (West Cedar Studio) painted a mural onto the stucco building.

A 1950s scene along Faribault’s Central Avenue is shown in this mural in our downtown district. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The mural differs significantly from the historic-themed murals scattered throughout our downtown as part of The Mural Society of Faribault’s ongoing mural installation efforts.

Close up, colors and graphics pop.

The Upper East Side mural, a project of owner Suzanne Schwichtenberg and Jarvis, is more modern and graphic with strong lines. Less detailed. Bold. With unexpected pops of color. I find the zipper painted into the mural to be especially creative—the unzipping of history, of stories, of past and present. The mural invites introspection rather than simple reflection on an historic place or memory.

That’s my take. Not as someone with an art education, but rather as a creative who has grown to appreciate the arts in her community and beyond.

A locally-themed tote displayed at The Upper East Side. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo September 2018.

FYI: Suzanne Schwichtenberg leads paint-and-sip events and other painting sessions at The Upper East Side and also takes painting/social gatherings on the road. Jarvis is a third-generation artist specializing in historical sketches and scenes from everyday life. He is passionate about local and regional history, authoring a book on the area’s mill history.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “Alley-side art in Faribault”

  1. Art is everywhere if you look for it and the best art is the kind you find when you are not looking for it 🙂 I love living in a creative hamlet and the art is varied too, which makes you look, think and even flips you on your head at times. I enjoy checking out signage/branding. Walking on the beach yesterday and someone wrote “vacay” in shells – cute! Art can be gardens or a beautiful display of floral and/or fauna. STOP, Pause and Breathe and TAKE in the BEAUTY around you! Happy Day – Enjoy

  2. Valerie Says:

    I always enjoy seeing murals on buildings but I agree, nature’s art is awesome!

  3. I love that new mural, the zipper is so realistic! The flower boxes are pretty too!

  4. Sandra Says:

    Wow, that IS a departure from the style of the other murals. Glad you included that viaduct view. This makes 10? the original 8 + Whipple in Central Park, now this? Jeff’s art that I’ve seen is usually sketching or water colors. I think I’d like, have to make a point, although coming down the viaduct, can hardly miss it! The art additions to the river area are so welcomed, the sculpture is absolutely gorgeous. We are blessed with no snow!, but several have reminded us of last year. We need “open” – safely! of course.

    • Faribault is definitely growing its public art. Such a good thing. I can’t wait to see how the planned under the viaduct park evolves. And the new park where the old city garage used to be along the river. Lots of good things happening here. And, yes, we need to “open” safely.

  5. Loved it!! Even the flowers boxes are painted under the window! Awesome!!! I am sure it adds to the community in new exciting ways.

  6. Oooh – that one is really special, isn’t it? I love that bright pop of color. We both look for those art displays outdoors that make us smile, don’t we?

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