It’s a banner year for ‘Experience Aitkin’

This mural, located between the Rialto Theatre and Pine Insurance, shows birch trees in the four difference seasons. It was created by Linda Causton, and is part of the Jaques Art Center’s “Experience Aitkin” art banners.

They say that a picture speaks a thousand words.

That is what Jaques Art Center Executive Director Pamela Andell thought of immediately when she saw the Aitkin Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Experience Aitkin” motto.

And as a result, banners have gone up all over Aitkin – and artwork as well. Made possible in part from a grant from Mille Lacs Energy Corporation, and also the contributions from area artists, those banners are giving an artsy look to downtown Aitkin.

Banners have been placed at the Jaques Art Center, Aitkin Flowers and Gifts, the Rialto Theatre and Hometown Lumber. Another is planned for Block North Brew Pub to round out the banners going up yet this year.

Andell said that the idea of combining artwork with the chamber motto brought her to this idea.

“I thought by putting banners in various places, here’s where you can experience it,” she said.

Andell said the art center is working with businesses to determine whether they want a banner and what kind of art they want on it. The grant for $1,000 from MLEC allows for pairing an artist with a business and producing the banner.

“We’re very pleased that businesses are taking advantage of this,” said Andell.

Artists involved in the project are varied. Francis Lee Jaques’ “The Cloud” is on display on the banner at Jaques Art Center, while Kimberly Heft Cook and Linda Causton have donated paintings as well.

In addition, Causton put together a mural in the space between Pine Insurance and the Rialto that helped brighten up the space there.

“I’m so pleased with that,” Causton said. “I think it looks super dynamic, and adds such a brightness to that space. And now people have a place to take selfies.”

Causton is a member of the board of directors and an artist in the community. She said the idea for the mural came from someone who commented that the area between the two buildings could use some “beautifying.”

She and others got together to paint the boards white, but Causton and her husband worked to fix the boarding and then place artwork on it.

Causton decided on birch trees that showed the seasons. Over the course of about four weeks, the boards transformed first into the seasons, then into the birch trees – complete with the wide variety of foliage.

“It just kind of evolved that way,” she said.

The mural was finished last week, but a frame and varnishing still have to be added.

The start to the project began with the large Jaques banner next to Bremer Bank, and Andell is hopeful the project will continue to expand. Already, businesses will be switching banners with new artwork later this month.

Andell said that Kirk Peysar, who owns the Rialto, was instrumental in getting the project started by giving approval to the banner by Bremer Bank. Andell also mentioned Barry Anderson, who has been working with the businesses to set up the banners.

“He also helps me in designing the banners here at the center,” Andell said.

Business owners interested in pursuing a banner can contact Andell at 218-927-2363.

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