Our view: 'Fine as is,' apparently

There seems to be consensus, even if it's not quite unanimous: Leave blank the 35 or so arches that line the lower stretch of Duluth's Piedmont Avenue.

A blank canvas?
A number of arches line the lower stretches of U.S. Highway 53 in Duluth. (Steve Kuchera /

There seems to be consensus, even if it's not quite unanimous: Leave blank the 35 or so arches that line the lower stretch of Duluth's Piedmont Avenue.

Adorning them with artwork was suggested on this page earlier this week. Jack Harrigan, who's living this summer in Duluth, suggested the arches "could use some sprucing up." He asked, "How about a local art group painting in some trompe l'oeil, those murals that deceive the eye?"

So we threw it out there. What does everyone think of the idea?

Not much, as it turned out.

A whopping 75 percent of nearly 400 online voters said no, they do not want to see artwork under the arches along Piedmont Avenue. Only one of 22 online commenters was even "open to the idea." The others panned it, some in not-so-polite fashion.


"It looks lovely just as it is. Sometimes, simple is better," Natalie Harkness, an assistant buyer for Maurices, wrote in an e-mail to the News Tribune Opinion page. "I'd rather have my street repaired."

"Please leave the panels blank," wrote another woman, who identified herself only as "an out-of-towner." "The city has enough problems without the potential of getting into an argument over what goes on the murals, who is going to keep them looking nice (and) who is going to clean up graffiti once paint is allowed on them. One person's idea of an appropriate picture style is not the same as another person's."

Not everyone slammed the idea.

"I would think that the Duluth Art Institute would love to have a contest to select 35 paintings for the arches. I would drive by periodically just to see them," wrote Tony Stauber of Duluth.

Former Minnesotan Derek Behning wrote to say the idea reminded him of the cows that were painted by artists and scattered around Chicago a few years ago or of the "Peanuts" comic strip character statues that similarly were painted and used to decorate street corners, lobbies and other points in St. Paul. He didn't realize Duluth did Aerial Lift Bridges for our landmark's centennial.

"Let 35 artists show what Duluth means to them and make it a big event," he wrote, suggesting a public art event centered around the arches. "Drawing people to other parts of our great town shouldn't be so hard, but Canal Park and North Shore carry the whole burden for the city. Duluth needs to embrace other parts of the city and create something worthwhile. ... Duluth's unique neighborhoods can become stronger with a little character, vision and some love."

Others who wrote in weren't nearly as enthusiastic. Below are just a couple of the letters we received. We publish them to put to rest what apparently wasn't such a great idea, even if it was one worth exploring.

"I just hope we haven't given impetus to any


graffidiots here in Duluth," Harrigan said in a follow-up note.

Everyone hopes that.

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