Photo: William Hurst
@Skatradioh - May 2018
The Current is a mystery mural that is no longer visible.
On the eve of Bent Paddle’s Festiversary in May of 2018, folks in the vicinity of 19th Avenue West and Upper Michigan Street were preparing for the following day’s event. Road closure barriers and tents were going up, “No Parking” signs were being installed, the stage was set up, and Porta-Potties were in place. Beyond this pre-party prep, it was a usual day in the Craft District.
As the following day dawned, a wall that had been blank just twelve hours earlier now had a mural. The Current had been installed by @skatradioh aka David Moreira overnight. The black and white iconic images of the lift bridge, Enger tower, a ship and other pier impressions in Duluth had been applied directly onto the then-red south facing wall of the Frost River complex. All indications of the actual installation (paint, drop cloths, scaffolding, ladders, etc.) were gone. At the time, the owner of Frost River, Chris Benson, said the artist had originally planned to do a live paint during Festiversary but as he got started the night before he just decided to keep going until it was finished.
The Current stayed in place until 2020 when the North Shore Federal Credit Union (NSFCU) moved into the end unit of the complex which featured Paul LaJeunesse’s Lincoln Park Craft District on their east wall and The Current on the south wall. At the time NSFCU moved in, Lincoln Park was in the midst of the pandemic shut-down. But as the weather warmed and things opened up, it became necessary for them to make their presence known. The exterior of their unit was painted and The Current was covered and replaced with a NSFCU logo applied directly to the wall rather than an installed sign, perhaps as a nod to the mural trend happening throughout Lincoln Park.
Flash forward to 2021. As information was being gathered about the Lincoln Park murals, The Current continued to remain a mystery. Numerous questions about specifically who instigated the mural, how to contact the artist, and if professional photos were ever taken hit numerous dead ends. After a lot of investigation and some help from a current MPR staffer, former Current employee Matthew Perkins shed some light on the project.
During the year previous to the mural, Matt had worked on the Live Current project that focused on hiring local artists to do murals in the Twin Cities. As The Current radio station prepared to expand to the Duluth market, they looked for unique promotional opportunities. At roughly the same time, Bent Paddle Brewing was developing their expanded tap room on the southeast corner of 19th Avenue West and Upper Michigan Street. Their 2018 Festiversary would be an opportunity to showcase this new space. With the Lincoln Park energy top-of-mind and opportunities aligning, Chris Benson agreed to the installation of the mural on the Bent Paddle side of the building. Perkins had long-admired the work of @skatradioh and had made a mental note to “keep an eye on this guy”. With @skatradioh’s work on local live band posters and The Current radio’s dedication to local music, everything came together.
The loss of The Current, along with the demolition of the Boathouse Treats and Treasures building and its façade mural were catalysts for the Lincoln Park Art Walk project.
Photos: David Hoole, Shannon Laing, William Hurst
1902 W Superior St (no longer in existence – was originally installed on the Upper Michigan Street-facing wall)