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Sisters commissioned to create downtown mural

Cindee Lundin, right, a Perham native, is a nationally known artist and a pioneer in working with decorative concrete. She is leading the design and creation of a new mural in Perham, along with her sister, Shenoa Pickrain. Submitted photos

Two words to describe the wall of Photo Magic that faces First Avenue could be ‘plain’ and ‘gray’ – but that’s about to change.

That large, blank wall, visible from Main Street, is about to be revitalized with a bright, lakes-area themed mural by concrete artist Cindee Lundin.

Lundin, a Perham native, is nationally-known for her decorative, carved concrete artwork. Dennis Happel, a well-known community member and local attorney, approached Lundin with the idea of doing something to dress up the space.

“He asked me, ‘Can you come up with some ideas?,’” said Lundin.

She certainly did.

A rough sketch – drawn over a printed picture of the building – features a pair of loons on sunset-colored waves. The mural will stretch 90 feet across the side of the building and stretch up to 10 feet at its tallest. It will be composed of several intricately carved, vibrantly colored panels.

“I think it will be exciting,” said Lundin. “I don’t know if there’s anything like it. It really will be one of a kind.”

A “faux bois” concrete bench, made to look like a piece of driftwood out on the water (complete with basking turtles) will rest near the loons, said Lundin.

“Perham, Minnesota” will be worked into the mural near the bench, in a spot intended for visitors to take their photo as a memento.

The piece will also be interactive, with pictures and objects hidden within the carvings.

Chenoa Pickrain, Lundin’s sister and assistant for the project, said they plan to create a list of hidden designs with a brochure, website, or possibly even a smartphone app.

“Some will be really obvious,” the sisters said, while other objects will be more deliberately hidden.

Happel has stayed involved with the project, leading the fundraising campaign to pay for the piece. The goal is to cover the $45,000 price tag entirely with donations.

“The response has been really awesome. We’ve talked about it for a long time,” he said of wanting to bring more public art into Perham. “It hasn’t been a hard sell. You’re going to be really drawn to it.”

In return for supporting the piece, sponsors’ names will be incorporated into the work. Assuming a permit is approved, the plan is to redo the sidewalk under the mural and let the colors flow all the way to the street. Sponsors’ names will be worked into the redone walkway, along with more turtles.

Depending on how this project goes over, Happel said the ultimate vision is to continue filling Perham’s public spaces with art, possibly as yearly projects.

Lundin and Pickrain will make the panels at a studio in Tucson, Ariz., over the summer. UV-stable pigments will be used to color the ultra-light and durable concrete. A protective coating will be added to protect against vandalism.

“We’re going to put the money in up front to avoid future aging issues,” Happel explained, with Lundin adding that the piece should last more than 30 years.

Once the production is completed, Lundin will bring the pieces to Perham, where a team from JH Signs and Designs will be in charge of the final installation.

If everything goes according to plan, the final piece should be unveiled sometime around late August or early September.

For anyone too curious to wait that long, Lundin will make a miniature model of the mural. It should be at the Chamber of Commerce by early June – just in time for the beginning of Turtle Fest.

She cautioned that not all of the details will be included on the demo, in order to save time and a certain element of surprise. But, she said, the model will help people get a better feel for what to expect.

“It’s an honor to be commissioned for such a big, public piece of art,” Lundin said, adding that the fact it will be in her hometown makes the project even more special.