Illustrator discovers Stillwater mural rejected via Facebook - KMSP-TV

Stillwater preservation society decides mural better off brown

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A St. Paul illustrator worked for two weeks to create a mural sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon on the rail car outside of the Freight House bar and restaurant in Stillwater, Minn. -- but when he checked Facebook on Wedensday, he found out someone slapped a brown coat of paint over it.

"I do the art. I don't do the bureaucracy," David Witt told Fox 9 News.

Witt documented his efforts on Twitter, with his western-themed design nearing completion on May 29. He wasn’t quite finished, but Freight House management decided in conjunction with Stillwater’s Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) that it must come down.

"A good chunk of time," Witt lamented. "I figured with everything I had put into it, I had two hours of just polishing up a few areas."

Witt began transforming the brown train caboose in April, but he said he someone sent him a heartbreaking photograph over Twitter on Tuesday.

"They showed a picture that they found on Facebook," Witt explained. "It showed someone with a roller."

That someone was the senior manager of the Freight House -- the restaurant that owns the Caboose. The reasoning? According to the HPC, the mural contains an advertisement for a specific product, which the city’s manual deems inappropriate. The restaurant didn't want to fight City Hall, but Witt was unaware of the politics.

"It was a month-long process of them contacting the Freight House," he protested. "Never once was I told that anything was going on."

Although Pabst has paid for other murals in the Twin Cities -- including one in downtown St. Paul, Stillwater's 45-page downtown design manual says murals must:

- Get approval
- Have a historic theme
- Not advertise

Beyond the backing of Pabst, the historic western themes and the vegetation depicted in the mural are “uncharacteristic of eastern Minnesota,” Stillwater City Planner Abbi Jo Wittman told Citypages

"It made sense. I don't agree with it at all. It's frustrating, but yeah, it makes sense," Witt admitted.

The Freight House manager told Fox 9 News they weren't aware of the approval process until the city sent them an e-mail on May 8, figured city leaders would like it when it was done and just kept going.

Witt's received plenty of praise for his mural on Twitter, and although he is disappointed, he said he'd be happy to paint a new mural with the city's blessing. 

"I got paid to do the last one. They can pay me to do another one," he said.

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