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Tom Harper: A mural is born; it’s good to live in Lawrence (Column)

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Last night I had the privilege of watching Dave Loewenstein start his mural on the back side of Cottin’s Hardware with Ardys Ramberg and Missy McCoy.

The project was approved at the Lawrence City Commission meeting. Loewenstein thought it would be a good idea to start immediately after the vote. Luckily, I decided to go for a bike ride and on my way home witnessed the three of them setting up the projector and getting ready to start painting.

Loewenstein succinctly sums up this mural on his website: “It will focus on the earth, and the precarious place we have put her in.”

Tom Harper/Contributed The outline of a new mural is projected onto the east side of Cottin’s Hardware on Sept. 7, 2021, shortly after the Lawrence City Commission approved it.

It was interesting to watch the process unfold. Linda Cottin was there to start things off, providing power to the long cords for the projector, a photographer to document the evening and words of encouragement.

The evening started with Loewenstein centering the image of the earth on the building. There was too much light to clearly see the image, yet that changed swiftly as dusk unfolded and the sky turned to a soft hue of burning orange, pink to deep darkness. Ramberg confidently trekked up the scaffolding to cover one of the exterior lights attached to the building, and Loewenstein gave us all a lesson on proper scaffolding use.

Loewenstein had the supplies ready for McCoy and Ardys with a few directions coupled with enthusiasm and handed them paint brushes to begin tracing the lines of the earth on the wall.

Surprisingly, Loewenstein handed me a paintbrush, and I was able to help a bit.

It was fun to visit with Ramberg and McCoy, the two artists who created the mural on the south side of the building in 2009, called “In Good Standing Amidst the Powers That Be,” and last year gave the same mural a refresh.

Tom Harper/Contributed Lawrence artist Dave Loewenstein, farthest from camera, discusses a mural project for Cottin’s Hardware with Ardys Ramberg, left, and Missy McCoy. They got started on the mural right after the Lawrence City Commission approved it on Sept. 7, 2021.

Many thanks to Linda and Tom Cottin for hiring Loewenstein for this job. Public murals are important. They breathe life and create meaning for communities.

We are lucky to have Loewenstein in Lawrence to help make our built environment more beautiful and remind us of our history and direction.

I encourage you to drive by to witness the progress. Stop and say hello, offer a cold drink and take a picture. The crew will likely be working on this for almost two months — the project has a completion date of Oct. 31.

It simply doesn’t get any better, does it?

It is good to live in Lawrence, Kansas.

Tom Harper/Contributed
Tom Harper/Contributed
Tom Harper/Contributed Ardys Ramberg, left, and Missy McCoy work on a new mural project for Cottin’s Hardware. They got started on the mural right after the Lawrence City Commission approved it on Sept. 7, 2021.

Catch a sneak peek of what the finished mural will look like at this link. The commission on Tuesday also approved murals of roses and sunflowers that will scale the sides of Penn Street Lofts.

More information from the project plans:

“On the large east facing wall, an image of the earth dips down from above with North America at the center. Under the earth, and bearing its magnitude, are native and ancient plants that transform into constellations as they move outward from the center. This image refers to the scale and fragility of our planet amidst growing challenges.

“On the adjoining south facing wall, a large hourglass marks the diminishing time for threatened species on our planet. At the top, we see animals that still have a presence but are endangered, while at the bottom are ones that have already become extinct, including some that were lost due to human interference.”

Update, 9:32 p.m. Wednesday: Cottin’s is hosting two community mural painting days. No experience is required to participate. Check out the events on The Lawrence Times community calendar on Sunday, Sept. 12, and Sunday, Sept. 19.

About the writer
About the writer


Tom Harper is a Realtor at Stephens Real Estate helping people in Lawrence and Douglas County buy and sell real estate. He is the founder of Lawrence Modern, a group whose mission is to raise awareness of midcentury and modern architecture. You will find him posting frequently on Instagram under @lawrencemodern, sharing his daily observations of his favorite place on earth: Lawrence, Kansas. Read more of Tom’s writing for The Lawrence Times here.

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