Mural going up in downtown Albert Lea

Published 5:06 am Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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Work is underway on the first mural in downtown Albert Lea as part of the ArtWalk Albert Lea initiative.

Organizers of the local movement to increase public art in Albert Lea have voiced their support for a mural in the alley behind Home Federal Savings Bank since the start of the initiative — in hopes of not only beautifying the area but also potentially reducing graffiti.

Holly Babcock, executive director of the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau and one of the organizers of Art Walk Albert Lea, said the alley is highly trafficked — not just for businesses but also for walking traffic.

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Babcock said while they know the mural may not get rid of all the graffiti there, they are hopeful the new public art will lower it. She said research shows that public art can reduce the frequency of graffiti.

Home Federal agreed to partner with the group and let them paint the wall, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau paid for the paint with support from Sherwin Williams.

Doug’s Painting & Sandblasting painted the base coat and will paint a sealer on when volunteers are complete.

The mural includes three scenes from the popular Super Mario Bros.

Babcock said the scenes were designed in a way that they can easily touch up areas if damaged by graffiti. They also plan to include a few spots that are interactive, where people will be able to take pictures of themselves in the various scenes, such as punching a box like the characters would on the game to get a coin.

Volunteer painters included Babcock and co-organizer Shane Koepke, along with Erica Saindon, Ellen Raleigh and Rachel Cole.

Babcock encouraged others who might be interested in adding more murals downtown to reach out to her. She noted that within the historic district, if the building is not considered “contributing,” it does not have to get approvals from the city. She said she would love to help guide people through the process of what has worked for them for other mural projects, including types of paints and how to seal murals properly.

Babcock said the ultimate goal for the alley is for the group to also work with the business owners to paint their backdoors.

Art Walk Albert Lea will soon be unveiling a new sculpture near Hatch Bridge, and another is in the works near the Freeborn County Arts Initiative building downtown.

They also plan to install plaques at the bases of all of the existing sculptures.