David Witt's cool Stillwater PBR mural painted over just before completion [PHOTOS]
Witt's mural looked like this shortly before it was scrubbed from existence.
On May 29, David Witt was riding high. After two weeks of work, the full-time illustrator was just about to wrap up the sponsored Pabst Blue Ribbon mural he was painting on the rail car outside the Freight House bar and restaurant in Stillwater.
Witt took to Twitter that afternoon and updated his progress:
But Witt was in for a rude awakening when he woke up yesterday and checked Facebook:
We touched base with Witt shortly after he saw that his mural had been painted over. Initially, he assumed the city was responsible.
"I made the whole mural and I don't even know how much time I put into it," Witt said. "I was maybe two hours away from finishing it and I was going to do that tomorrow."
But we found out the story was a little more complicated than that when we got in touch with Stillwater City Planner Abbi Jo Wittman later in the day.
Wittman explained that the city was responsible in a sense, but ultimately the call to cover up the mural yesterday was made by Freight House management.
"On May 6, the city had an anonymous inquiry about a mural being painted at the Freight House on a box car, and all the murals and graphic design signs in downtown require a Design Review Permit and a Special Use Permit," Wittman told us. "I sent a community service officer over that day but there was nobody on site and we were unable to figure out who is doing the work, so we sent an email to the Freight House indicating that they needed a permit."
A little over a week later, the city received a permit application from the Freight House. In the application, management proposed allowing Witt to finish the mural he'd already started. That design, however, didn't pass muster with the city's Heritage Preservation Commission.
(For more, click to page two.)
"The HPC was very much in favor of a mural in this location but this mural, especially because it had been [pretty much] completed between the time the application had been submitted and the HPC meeting -- the [HPC's rationale] was that the mural contains an advertisement for a specific product which as outlined in the [city] manual is not appropriate, and it features historic western themes and vegetation that is uncharacteristic of eastern Minnesota," Wittman explained. "They concluded it's not suited for downtown."
The HPC's ruling left Freight House management with two options -- appeal the decision to the City Council, or cover up the mural. They opted for the latter, but did so without informing Witt, who mainly worked with Pabst representatives. (Witt says he still plans to complete a PBR painting for installation inside the establishment.)
"All of this is news to me," Witt tells us. "I was kept completely out of the loop about things that happened back in May. I think the PBR rep was as surprised as I was."
"I've never had to deal with city stuff before," he continues. "It's the Freight House's property, so they should've kept me in the loop for guidelines so it wouldn't be painted over. It's all-around bad communication, just finding out they painted over it via a Twitter photo from somebody else."
But Witt says he learned a valuable lesson, at least.
"Be in touch with everybody all the time."
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at email@example.com.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.