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Love of postcards and community creates lasting landmark
Story by Trent Abrego
Troy McQuillen has a postcard collecting hobby and a love for Aberdeen, so his newest creation — a mural commemorating community landmarks — made perfect sense.

The project, on the side of the McQuillen Creative Group building at 423 S. Main St., resembles a block letter postcard.

When drivers are headed north on Main Street they can see the mural on the east side of the street at the intersecion of Fifth Avenue, a location that McQuillen thought would be perfect.

“I just hope it becomes a stop for anyone who passes through or walking downtown, and I hope it inspires more,” McQuillen said. 

Within the mural are homages to hunting, the Storybook Land castle, the Capitol Theatre, the railroad depot, Northern State University, Presentation College, the Brown County Fair, the Brown County Courthouse and The Twist Cone. In his original prints, McQuillen also included the Dacotah Prairie Museum, but ultimately replaced it.

While the mural is new, the idea isn’t.
In the 1940s, the city had a large letter postcard that commemorated Aberdeen landmarks. Some of the landmarks on that postcard were the Aberdeen Civic Arena, the old YMCA building, the former Central Highschool, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, St. Luke’s Hospital, the Central Building at Northern State University and the masonic temple.

When making the mural, McQuillen used five colors: yellow, blue, light blue, black and white. 

“I kind of approached it as a logo design — simple, straightforward, basic shapes,” McQuillen said. “It was right up my alley.” 
As of now, the mural seems to be a hit, according to McQuillen. 

“There’s a security camera right above it, it has audio on it,” McQuillen said. “Everybody is just raving. They walk by and say, ‘This is so cool.’” 

The mural was involved in a contest that ran through the month of September called Greetings From Aberdeen. Contestants used the creation as a background for selfies, portraits and even family photos. The winner of the contest was awarded $500.

When McQuillen bought the building back in 2002, there was an old window that was boarded up. He always had a plan to eventually put something in that window, whether it was a mural for his business, Lily’s Floral Designs & Gifts, which shares the building, or the community. 

“I recently saw online a style of illustration that I could try because I’m not a very good artist myself, but I gave it a shot and thought, ‘Boy, Aberdeen needs a focus point, and this would be the best spot to do it,’” McQuillen said. “I just started tinkering when I was home for COVID-19, and it took me a long, long time to do it, but it turned out great.”
Instead of painting the mural onto the building, McQuillen illustrated the graphic, which was then printed onto a board. 

“I knew I couldn’t paint it, I knew I probably couldn’t afford an artist or an illustration, and I just hate paint on buildings because it doesn’t last,” McQuillen said. “They told me this print out could last probably a year, I don’t think it will last that long.” 

While the current Aberdeen postcard mural might not be a downtown staple in a couple years, McQuillen plans on making more murals and possibly even adding more spots for his creations.

He already has one idea.

“People seem to like wings, no matter what. Butterfly or angel wings. Maybe do a different pattern off to the side, I’m not sure,” he said. 
Local couple brings mural to life on Woodman Refrigeration building
Story by Trent Abrego
If you’ve driven east on Sixth Avenue Southeast in the past week, chances are you’ve seen a change in scenery.

Nick and Nicole Fischer, two artists from Aberdeen, have been working on the side of the Woodman Refrigeration building, 1616 Sixth Ave. S.E., to give it an interactive mural while keeping it relevant to the business.

The mural, which features a fan, umbrellas, flowers and a dog, was commissioned by the Aberdeen Area Arts Council, said Executive Director Stacy Braun.

“We were looking for some place that had visibility, high traffic and also maybe some opportunity that had some parking around it so people could pull in if they wanted to get a closer look or picture,” Braun said. “We just started driving around and looking. I’ve been going down Sixth Avenue for years now, and I always stop at that stoplight and think, ‘That’s a blank canvas right there.’”

In January, the arts council had a long-reach planning session during which it identified a public art project for each of the next three years. In the first year, a mural was selected.

While the mural is expected to be finished by the end of the week, plans for it go as far back as February when the Fischers were first contacted by the arts council.

However, as with most things, COVID-19 delayed the process, and the idea was put on hold.

“We were trying to distance learn with our kids, and we were behind on other projects,” Nicole Fischer said. “So, it just kind of sat on the back burner for a few months.”

Fast forward to July and talks between the Fischers and the arts council started up again. This time, action was put into place.

In order to get the mural approved, the Fischers had to get clearance not just from the arts council, but by John and Ramona Woodman, who own the building.
“They approved the design, they looked at several designs and they liked this one, too,” Fischer said. “This is the one that everyone really settled on just so it would make sense. It’s fun and it tied in with the business somewhat with the fan and the cooling part of it.”
In total, the Fischers came up with about 10 different designs.

While they have numerous murals around town — including at Aberdeen Regional Airport, St. Luke’s Pediatric Clinic and the restoration of the OshKosh B’gosh sign at 224 S. Main St. — this one is their largest outdoor creation.Not only is it the biggest, it’s also one of Fischer’s favorites.

“(It’s) definitely the funnest, just colorful, fun and whimsical,” she said. “It’s just such good timing because it seems like all the news is doom and gloom, and it’s finally nice to have something uplifting and something everyone can have fun with. This is really for everybody.”

While the project uses shadows and looks real in any light, the picture-perfect opportunity will come in late afternoon or early evening, according to Fischer. That’s when the sun will be hitting the mural at the same angle at which the shadows are positioned.
People are encouraged to take photos with the mural and use a hashtag when posting on Instagram. As of now, the hashtag hasn’t been announced, but will eventually be on the mural.

Fischer hopes the project sparks ideas for other artists and businesses around the community.

“I hope it will kind of be a catalyst for future projects. There’s a couple of spots in town that we really have our eye on and would be really awesome,” she said.

The arts council is also looking toward the future and its next project.

Earlier this month, it was announced that the council received a $5,000 grant from the South Dakota Arts Council through the Residency for Recovery Program.

The goal for that program is to support local artists and have a final public art project, whether it’s temporary or permanent. As of now, plans for the new project are in their infancy. But it will be permanent public art, Braun said.

“I think it’s a nice time for us. We were working on this and had to stop because of COVID,” she said. “Now, people are trying to get back to a sense of normalcy. I think it’s been fun to see and hear the positive remarks. Through the years, it seems to be that the arts helps people heal and helps a community come back together after tragedy, pandemic, anything.”
NO. 28 ◼️ VOL. 1 ◼️ FEB. 5, 2020