Mural adds splash of color to East EndWith paint and creativity, a blank slate has become an invitation for visitors and businesses to sail into Superior’s East End.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
With paint and creativity, a blank slate has become an invitation for visitors and businesses to sail into Superior’s East End. A new mural is nearing completion on the side of Dr. Jon G. Nelson’s dental office, East End Dental Arts, which also houses East End Laundromat. In less than two weeks, the white wall has been drenched in color. Painted by local artist Jeredt Runions, it highlights the area from ore docks and fishing coves to the lighthouse on Wisconsin Point.
“You can find everything (in the mural) within 10 miles,” said Nelson, who commissioned the work.
Runions said people of all ages have stopped by to watch the mural take shape. Laundromat vents have been wreathed in clouds; an exterior light became the sun; a sailboat appeared, sail pointing to the door.
“The concept behind it is fantastic,” Nelson said, and it has brought a whole new energy to the space. “We’re rejuvenating with a purpose.”
The dentist, whose practice has been based in East End for 23 years, said the upcoming construction of a new grocery store in the area made it a perfect time to update and become more visible. The artwork is still in progress, but it has already served its purpose.
“It has drawn attention to the building, laundromat and dental office,” Nelson said. He hopes it will also raise interest in East End business opportunities. Small businesses are needed to fill some empty storefronts. “We want to keep it vital.”
Other changes at the dental office include photo collages of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands by artist Dennis O’Hara on the walls and flower boxes inspired by those at Northern Block Apartments beside the front door.
“It’s just another way to bring a little attention, liven things up,” Nelson said.
A patient who also happened to be a University of Wisconsin-Superior professor connected Nelson with Runions. The mural encompasses both new and old for the artist. The building at 418 23rd Ave. E. is just down the block from the home his father grew up in. And it celebrates street art, a phenomenon he ran into on a recent trip to Valparaiso, Chile.
“It’s getting really huge with street art and communities coming together and having buildings painted and it just has a sense of community vibe to it,” Runions said. “They’re really strongly connected with the sense of building the community.”
He credited Nelson with having the vision to turn his building exterior into public art.
“He just wanted something to brighten up East End a little bit,” Runions said. Another East End business owner has already approached the artist about creating a mural for their business.
The mural will be completed in time for East End Family Fun Day on Sept. 15. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It includes music, a car show, children’s games, a pet parade and much more. The event is held in conjunction with the East End community-wide rummage sale, which offers more than three miles of rummage sales for bargain hunters to peruse.
Superior is continuing to embrace public art. Along with the dental building, murals can be found on the back of the Douglas County Historical Society’s building at 1101 John Ave. and behind Vintage Italian Pizza, 1201 Tower Ave.
The Back Door Project was launched last year to brighten up the alley egress for businesses along Tower Avenue prior to a 2013 street reconstruction project. A partnership between the Superior Business Improvement District (BID) and Superior Public Art Creating Community Environments, or SPAC2ES, left colorful murals visible behind the buildings at 1112, 1114 and 1210 Tower Avenue. Seven more back doors will be painted by October, according to Kaye Tenerelli, executive director of the BID. Soon driving down the alleys behind Tower Avenue will be “like going to an art gallery and seeing different artists’ work,” she said. Each artist will incorporate the old arch that used to span Tower Avenue somewhere in their back door art.
Another partnership between the BID and SPAC2ES brought art to vacant storefronts along Tower Avenue 24/7 through Phantom Galleries.
“It’s taken on a life none of us expected,” said Karen Monson-Thompson, chairwoman of SPAC2ES. The project has been embraced by both the public and artists. A new rotation of artists will have their work on display at the Phantom Galleries soon.
“Public art is great,” Thompson said. “We need more of this vibrancy in the city.” The arts, she said, can maker a positive difference in town.
“Now that people see the Back Door Project and Phantom Galleries, they can see what art can do to cities like Superior,” Runions said.