Eighteen months after Ray Carlson, the new owner of Aunt Belle’s Confectionary, floated the idea of replacing a 15-year-old mural on the side of his building, a new painting will enhance the wall.

“All I did is offer to donate the wall space for a new one,” Carlson said, praising instead the numerous community members who coordinated the effort. “I think everybody is excited about it. Hopefully, it will turn out the way we expect. It’ll be an attention-getter for the downtown.”

A steering committee representing several community organizations has collaborated on the project, working with the artist on a design that will welcome people downtown and convey the vitality of Park Rapids’ shops, restaurants and the arts community.

“It’s had a lot of input from a lot of people,” Carlson said. “We’re definitely looking forward to freshening it up a little bit. It’s definitely going to be a different look than what was there.”

Muralist Lili Payne of Minneapolis and a crew will begin the work Monday, Aug. 3 and, weather permitting, will finish Friday, Aug. 7.

For 17 years, Payne has built a business as a scenic artist and muralist, her most notable clients being Macy's Special Events (Minneapolis and Chicago), the Loews Hotel Minneapolis, Split Rock Studios museum services, a 2017 feature film ("Wilson") and numerous public art commissions. Her murals are installed in businesses and organizations all over the country, but mainly concentrated in Minnesota.

Payne is a founding member and vice president of the Guild of Scenic Artists, a non-profit working to foster community, provide educational resources, and help with the industry challenges of professional scenic artists. For more about her work, go to www.gildedlili.com.

Carlson expects the new mural to be colorful and eye-catching. Paint is being provided by Benjamin Moore and Cwikla Ace Hardware. Jeff Cwikla told Carlson “the paint is about as bright as you can get, so it should be very vibrant.”

Heartland Arts, the Park Rapids Downtown Business Association (PRDBA) and funders invite the community to join in celebrating this new artwork at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7 along the sidewalk north of Aunt Belle’s.

PRDBA co-chair Mike Bruhn said the project spurs “the message that we’re moving forward during this period of time. I think the mural is a nice statement of that. We’re taking what was and making it a new look.”

He said the mural aims to be appealing and inviting.

“People love photo opps. That’s another thing that I think is exciting,” he added, pointing out that Park Rapids may become identified by the mural, along with the sculptures that dot Red Bridge Park and downtown streets.

“I look downtown and I see we are progressing. We are not regressing,” Bruhn said, expressing admiration for the entrepreneurs who have chosen to rent downtown spaces and pursue their dreams of owning a business during the pandemic.

The mural, he said, “is a sign of our determination to progress in this community.”

This activity is made possible, in part, by the voters of Minnesota, through a grant from the Region 2 Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Additional funding is from Aunt Belle’s Confectionary & Grandpa’s Cabin, the PRDBA, Enbridge, Precision Pipeline and Viking Mat Company. The Park Rapids Lions Club provided volunteers to paint the base coat.