A colorful mural showcasing some of Duluth’s performing arts history now hangs on the wall of the NorShor Theatre's third-floor skywalk.
Depictions of Charlie Chaplin at the Orpheum, the old NorShor Theatre’s marquee sign and an Ojibwe woman wearing a traditional jingle dance dress are just some of the images found on this painting made up of 16 8x4 pieces of plywood.
“The History of Duluth’s Performing Arts” mural was unveiled Friday morning by the city of Duluth and the Duluth Public Arts Commission (DPAC). For the unveiling and press conference, City Councilor Gary Anderson, DPAC Commissioner Sandy Johnson, Christine Gradl Seitz, representing the NorShor Theatre, and Susan Prentice Martinsen, the mural artist, all spoke.
“I think people are using the word ‘inspiring’ to describe the mural,” said Kate Van Daele, public information officer for the city of Duluth. “There’s a lot of color, and the mural showcases the history of the performing arts in Duluth.”
NorShor Theatre’s third-floor skywalk connects with the parking lot behind the Sheraton Duluth Hotel (the Medical District ramp), and originally had a large blank wall, according to Johnson.
DPAC approached the NorShor Theatre in 2017 and asked how they could assist them in preparing for their grand opening. Seitz, executive and artistic director of the Duluth Playhouse, suggested adding art to the skywalk space that would depict the history of Duluth in some way, Johnson said. DPAC decided to pursue this, and a Request for Qualifications was sent out in 2018 and then a Request for Proposals went out to finalists.
“We had great finalists, so it was great to have so much talent to choose from,” Johnson said. “Martinsen’s piece was selected because of the amount of Duluth’s performing arts history she included along with the creative utilization of the space and incorporation of spectacular color and detail.”
Martinsen, of Ashland, has been painting murals in the area since 1998 and has about 20 of them displayed in the Great Lakes region. The mural's installation took place during the past week.
“Not only is it a beautiful piece, it also tells a story of the history of the arts in the area,” Johnson said. “We have tourists, patrons and families who use that skywalk, so it’s a great way to show the story of Duluth. It is exactly what we wanted.”
It is part of DPAC’s mission to support public art as a community investment by promoting art in public spaces and to foster art development, and this project does that, said Johnson. Local and public art helps the community, and she encourages local artists to do public art through them.
“Public art adds value, culture and vitality to our community that positively impacts our economy,” Johnson said. “We encourage local artists to do public art. … We can always use more public art and not just in the downtown areas but all around the community.”
If artists would like to propose a project to display as public art, they should complete the city of Duluth's Project Proposal Request Form that can be found on DPAC's website — duluthmn.gov/boards-commissions/duluth-public-arts-commission.
Editor's note: This article has been republished following the correction of some errors.