Archive for Saturday, April 3, 1993

MURALS BRING CITY SOME WALLFULL ART

April 3, 1993

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It's an art form that's been around since humanity lived in caves -- the wall mural.

From hidden chambers of Egyptian pyramids to the walls of inner city America, artists have used walls to depict scenes too grandiose for mere canvas.

In recent years, the walls of downtown Lawrence businesses have hosted several murals, ranging from those found in a barber shop and a candy store to those in bars, theaters and even an indoor miniature golf course.

Four new murals have gone up within the past year at three local restaurant/bars. And an artist who painted two of them hopes more will be on the way.

``They're really blossoming,'' says Dave Lowenstein, a Kansas University student whose first effort is called ``Sunflower Cycle.''

Lowenstein painted the 17-foot by 30-foot colorful mural last spring in the beer garden at Quinton's Bar & Deli, 615 Mass. But it became visible to non-restaurant patrons from Vermont Street just recently when the former Ice House building was razed at Sixth and Vermont.

The mammoth painting depicts the life cycle of a sunflower blossom through a season of growth, framed by an archway.

Lowenstein, who is working on a master's degree in fine arts, said he offered to do the Sunflower mural for free.

``I heard from a fellow student they were interested in one in a beer garden,'' Lowenstein said. He had an idea -- he had worked on three murals in New York State, but never had a chance to work on his sunflower idea. He said bringing the sunflower mural to Kansas was a natural fit.

After finishing the first one, Steve Gaudreau, Quinton's owner, commissioned Lowenstein to do a second mural on the inside of the establishment.

Lowenstein, who was paid for the second mural, worked on it with Mike Han, a KU undergraduate in fine arts. That 8-foot by 20-foot mural, which is untitled, depicts three figures crammed into three box-like structures.

Lowenstein says he's had a few offers to do more murals and is looking into them. Meanwhile, he's helping to organize the community mural for next September's local ``Harvest of Art'' celebration. And he's involved in an Arts in Education state program that links artists with schools around the state to help students work on projects.

Lowenstein thinks murals will continue to flourish in Lawrence.

``If I have anything to do with they will,'' he said. ``They merge an artist's vision and skills with community interest. Sometimes it's hard to work in a studio. To do murals for me has been a wonderful approach to making art.''

Not every wall should have a mural, he said.

``I think there are a lot of buildings architecturally you wouldn't want to touch,'' he said. ``What I'm looking for is an opportunity for people to be able to express themselves in a public place. I really look forward to doing more.''

Meanwhile, the response has been good among patrons, says Gaudreau.

``People love them,'' Gaudreau said. ``The outside one has really gotten a lot of attention since the old Ice House was ripped down.''

Another beer garden mural that also was painted within the past year is at Hockenberry's Tavern, 1016 Mass.

``We had a big empty wall there that was kind of a beige color,'' said Brad Ziegler, owner of Hockenberry's.

Ziegler said the mural, which is a ``psychedelic jazz'' theme, was finished when the bar opened in May of 1992.

Carrie Finnestead, a KU senior majoring in fine arts, painted the mural for him.

Everybody loved it,'' Ziegler said. ``It gave the beer garden some atmosphere that it needed. In the summer, that's where people will be sitting, and we're going to put a canopy over the top.''

The downtown's 700 block also features the work of a more famous Kansas artist.

Stan Herd, who has won national recognition for his sprawling earthwork art, was hired to paint a mural at Teller's, 746 Mass.

Evan Kuhlmann, Teller's general manager, described the 15-foot by 35-foot mural as a ``spatial abstract,'' consisting of five framed abstracts.

The mural was painted in time for the restaurant's opening in July 1992.

``Overall, people pretty much like it,'' he said. ``We let Stan do what he wanted to. I really like them. It adds a personal touch to the place, especially when it's a local artist.''

Kuhlmann predicted there will be more murals in the city's downtown in the future.

``I think local artists have come to realize it's a good way to get discovered,'' he said.

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