Archive for Wednesday, August 8, 2001

Mural’s removal causes stir

August 8, 2001

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A liquor dealer's plan to paint over a mural on the former Community Mercantile building at Ninth and Mississippi streets has neighbors, artists and mural fans fuming.

Cork and Barrel owner Dan Blomgren said workers today will paint over the artwork on the side of his newly acquired location.

The "Seeds" mural on the east wall of the former Community
Mercantile, which was painted by muralist David Loewenstein and
others in December 1996, is ticketed for removal. Tuesday, John
Patchen, left, and Mike Atwell, both with Johnson Construction,
Lawrence, power-washed dirt and loose paint off the building at
Ninth and Mississippi streets, which will become a new Cork and
Barrel liquor store. Several neighbors and passersby were upset to
see the colorful mural being removed.

The "Seeds" mural on the east wall of the former Community Mercantile, which was painted by muralist David Loewenstein and others in December 1996, is ticketed for removal. Tuesday, John Patchen, left, and Mike Atwell, both with Johnson Construction, Lawrence, power-washed dirt and loose paint off the building at Ninth and Mississippi streets, which will become a new Cork and Barrel liquor store. Several neighbors and passersby were upset to see the colorful mural being removed.

Blomgren said he understands the mural has sentimental value, but he wants to give the building a new look.

"Although I'm sympathetic to the desires of the painters of the mural, it doesn't fit with a liquor store," he said. "It's not the Merc anymore. It's a new building, a new business and with that change, the mural is coming down."

Blomgren envisions a gold building with blue accent stripes.

But dozens of mural fans and neighbors are partial to the pastel and earth tones of the mural.

"I think it's insane," said Amy Higgins, body care manager at the Merc. "Why would you paint over a piece of art? How could you paint anything better?"

Many Lawrence residents have grown fond of the mural, called "Seeds," Higgins said. It was completed in December 1996. Nearly 40 residents worked on the mural for eight months.




Muralist David Loewenstein received permission from the Merc to use the building's east wall and secured a Lawrence Arts Commission grant to cover costs. Though he has since painted dozens of murals across the world, "Seeds" is particularly meaningful to him.

"It's one of the first murals I've done," he said. "It pulled together history and culture and symbolism all in one work. For it to come down is a very terrible thing for me."

The mural includes a textual message, partially illegible after Tuesday's power cleaning in anticipation of new paint: "We cannot sow seeds with clenched fists. To sow we must open fists," the mural reads.

Lawrence and Kansas imagery is used in seven scenes to depict the four natural elements and the process of sowing and reaping.

Loewenstein sent Blomgren a letter signed by five other people explaining the mural's significance when Cork and Barrel took over the lease a few weeks ago. Blomgren said he briefly decided to retain the mural, but reconsidered.

A mural project completed in December 1996 decorates the east wall
of the former Community Mercantile at Ninth and Mississippi
streets. A Cork and Barrel store is moving into the building and
workers began removing the mural Tuesday.

A mural project completed in December 1996 decorates the east wall of the former Community Mercantile at Ninth and Mississippi streets. A Cork and Barrel store is moving into the building and workers began removing the mural Tuesday.

"I figured we'd catch hell for painting over that mural," said Dan Mclean, job foreman for Johnson Construction. "But, oh well. The guy bought the building, so I guess he can do what he wants with it."

Blomgren actually leases the building; Douglas County records list the building's owner as the Michael J. and Donna K. Messina Trust.

Workers power-washed the mural Tuesday to remove dirt and loose paint. As they did, residents began spreading the word that the mural was to be destroyed.

By the end of the day, several e-mail messages were circulating, and people were stopping by Blomgren's office to voice opposition.

"I think this would be bad for (Blomgren's) business because a lot of people who are currently his customers are in disagreement with him, and I expressed that in person today," said Carrie Pettus, a Kansas University graduate student. "It's a lose-lose situation."

Lawrence resident Will Spotts watched the mural go up while he tended the Community Garden across the street in 1996. He said many people would be sad to see it go.

"I like that piece it's got a really good message, and it's a damn fine painting," he said. "It's not like it's an eyesore."

Blomgren said that even though he can't budge on the mural, as a longtime Lawrence resident and business owner, he wants to support the community as much as possible. One way is by paying the Community Garden's water bill.

"I'm not the GAP, where the money is going out of town," he said. "I'm 100 percent Lawrence."

The "Seeds" mural on the east wall of the former Community
Mercantile, 9th and Mississippi and painted by Dave Lowenstein,
Sandy Broughton and friends in December of 1996, is removed from
the building. Tuesday John Patchen with Johnson Construction,
Lawrence, power washes paint off the building which will be the
location for a new Cork and Barrel Wine and Spirits store. Several
neighbors and passersby were upset to see the colorful mural being
removed.

The "Seeds" mural on the east wall of the former Community Mercantile, 9th and Mississippi and painted by Dave Lowenstein, Sandy Broughton and friends in December of 1996, is removed from the building. Tuesday John Patchen with Johnson Construction, Lawrence, power washes paint off the building which will be the location for a new Cork and Barrel Wine and Spirits store. Several neighbors and passersby were upset to see the colorful mural being removed.

In this file photo from October, 1996, artist Sandy Broughton
paints in a scene on the "Seeds" mural on the east wall of the
former Community Mercantile at 9th and Mississippi. Tuesday workers
began removing a part of the mural with a power washer and
Wednesday the mural is to be painted over. Cork and Barrel is
opening a store in the building.

In this file photo from October, 1996, artist Sandy Broughton paints in a scene on the "Seeds" mural on the east wall of the former Community Mercantile at 9th and Mississippi. Tuesday workers began removing a part of the mural with a power washer and Wednesday the mural is to be painted over. Cork and Barrel is opening a store in the building.

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