Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Mural unveiled

Vision, reality, remembrance


April 26, 2018

Lois E. Johnson

Artist Brian Olson, on left, speaks to Dean Paulson, one of the contributors to the mural project, at the unveiling on Saturday, April 21. A portion of the mural can be seen in the background.

Natalie Frohrip had a dream that became reality when artist Brian Olson of Duluth completed a mural at the Moose Lake Historical Society Museum in December and into January. The mural opened to the public on Saturday, April 21.

Before those attending the event were brought to see the mural, Frohrip explained that there

is a triangular-shaped wall in the museum, and she saw it as the ideal location for a mural.

"What we got was much, much more," she told the group.

Frohrip had been the executive director of the historical society when she told of her idea for a mural to Jeanne Doty, a Moose Lake resident and a member of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, as well as the historical society.

Doty suggested the historical society apply for a grant from the council.

Frohrip also learned of an artist from Duluth, Brian Olson, and contacted Olson to talk to

him about the mural. He came to the museum, looked at the upper walls and photos from the Moose Lake District taken right after the 1918 fire, went back and designed the mural.

In the end, the mural was not painted in the location where Frohrip originally envisioned. Rather, it was painted across the higher part of one wall with a bump out and down the length of the upper end wall of the museum. Frohrip measured the walls and said the mural is 50 feet long or more.

Brian Olson described his process.

"I came down and met the guys. I viewed the photos and newspaper clippings about the fire.

"Part of the creative process is getting all of these photos and news clippings and then putting them on the computer. It is sort of like doing a puzzle but you don't have the picture on the box to go by.

"Once you boil it all down, you come up with the pictures that are relevant, and once that happens, you realize that the mortgage is due in three weeks and the creative juices start flowing.

"The painting is in three parts. The first part is this big impressive steam locomotive that is shown in the best possible light. The reason that I say that is I believe that the train, which was partially responsible for starting the fire because of the sparks, but I chose to show it as rescuing people. The people are bundled up and boarding with what they had on their backs. That's all that they had time to take.

"The second part shows the townspeople and the fire brigade that is battling the flames in the town. I love this because part of the wall is bumped out with a real corner. As an artist it is nice to grab some architecture to get a little bit of character into the painting. It reinforces that three-dimensional quality and brings some light to it.

"The third scene with the lake shows the unbelievable story of the people and the animals taking to the lake with makeshift rafts and cars and whatever they had to escape this horrific thing. And then we finally have text that describes the scene in the appropriate font.

"The mural is done in a sepia tone. The only thing done in color was the fire. Th at signifies the real and present danger that was there. The fire is in great color, which I think is kinda cool.

"I'm very honored to be involved in the project. I am so glad that you called me."

The grant application was approved, and the historical society received $5,000 towards the project in January. Other contributors

were: Marie Heskowitz, Dean and Susan Paulson, Steve and Diane Olson, Ross Anderson, Natalie Frohrip, Joe and Lee Mogen, Dan and Jeanne Doty, and the city of Moose Lake.

Mayor Ted Shaw spoke about the city's contribution.

"When Natalie told the city about this project and how the mural would go across the wall and around the corner, it sounded really fascinating. Through that first explanation by the artist and how it would be laid out, we thought, 'What a fantastic idea! What a great addition to the historical society.'

"I think that anyone that has lived here for any length of time has heard the story about the fire many times. I know that my wife's

grandfather, Ernie Newbloom, was one of those that raced into town in his car and drove it into the lake. A lot of families have those stories but, over time, they disappear. We're glad to be part of this."

Jeanne Doty, who was instrumental in the grant process, spoke.

Lois E. Johnson

Viewers gazed in amazement at the mural during the unveiling at the Fires of 1918 Museum on Saturday, April 21.

"This morning I was sitting at the expo next to Natalie and Ross and hearing 'spectacular, awesome, amazing,' and now I am hearing 'unbelievable.' I almost feel like it is Christmas in Moose Lake. But, just a reminder, with any project like this, it starts with a vision, it grows with funding, and not only the people mentioned and ARAC and the city, but all of us have contributed to this mural because we are citizens of Minnesota. The Minnesota citizens believed that this kind of activity is important so they passed that legacy amendment in back in 2008.

"It also took the creative skill and expertise of Brian, who brought this vision to life. We are celebrating the great success today but I believe that we are just beginning because when we look at that mural it will bring that horrific event to a place so deep within us. I don't believe that words or stories or even pictures will be able to capture what those people were feeling: the smells, the instances of great fear, of survival, and compassion and of perishing. I think that the mural will help us to feel that event more deeply than any other means by which we could do that."

The depot and museum open for the season on Saturday, May 26.


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