Faribault’s City Council is moving ahead with plans to fill a blank city-owned wall with vivid color, signing off on a Request for Proposal at its Tuesday meeting.
The wall at 25/27th Third Street was created as a byproduct of the Third Street demolition project, which saw one of Faribault’s most historic but ill-maintained buildings removed in favor of downtown parking.
As part of the demolition bid, embossed white aluminum panels were selected as a temporary wall treatment. The panels were chosen because of their affordability and value, and they met insulation requirements.
From a purely practical standpoint, staff feared that unregulated street art, graffiti or vandalism could make their way onto the wall if nothing is done. At the same time, the wall presented an alluring opportunity to fill the downtown with art and create “Instagrammable” moments. At a work session last month, the council oucilors discussed ideas of what they would like to see on the wall. While all were eager to see the wall filled with some sort of art, their ideas for what exactly might work best diverged dramatically.
Councilor Peter van Sluis, who serves as project manager for the Faribault Diversity Coalition, suggested using the opportunity to highlight the city’s international connections. Unusual for a city its size, Faribault has two “sister city” relationships, with Wurzburg, Germany, and Podensac, France.
Several councilors suggested using the mural to honor Faribault’s history, but even that produced different ideas. The CUP approved by the council is written so as to solicit a wide variety of designs. It describes the wall as a “one of a kind opportunity” to enliven the downtown, a space in need of “a fun, engaging and compelling visual experience.”
Specifically, it calls for the art to be “interactive,” as well as “family and social media friendly.” The values it exemplifies are asked to be in line with those in the recently approved Downtown Master Plan: Sense of Community, Sense of Place, Opportunity, Vision and Excellence.
Just $15,000 has been allocated for the mural. While van Sluis encouraged the city to seek out art grants, Community and Economic Development Director Deanna Kuennen said the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the amount of money available.
That funding will be provided by the city with $5,000 approved by the Economic Development Authority and the remaining $10,000 from the Community and Economic Development Department’s budget.
Submissions will be accepted until Dec. 18, after which a review committee will evaluate all proposals and recommend two to the council for approval. Still, councilors will have the chance to choose a non-recommended design. Under the RFP backed by the council, the committee will be composed of five members, including volunteers from the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Paradise Center for the Arts, HPC and downtown business owners.
Only the spot reserved for an HPC member remains unfilled. According to Community Development Coordinator Kim Clausen, Kelly Nygaard will represent the Chamber, Julie Fakler the Paradise, and business owners Ryan Ernster and Matt Drevlow will round out the board.
“In the call for proposal, we tried to express that this is a unique opportunity and we want it to fit into the downtown vision,” Kuennen said. We want this to be something we can all be proud of.”