Painting a mural standing on a scissor lift 20 feet off the ground might sound like a boring and lonely job.
Not for Roger Reinardy, the artist who completed the mural at the Sauk Centre Bandshell this summer.
“People would come by when I was painting it and ask if they could sing on the stage,” Reinardy said.
The most memorable performance was an impromptu concert of patriotic music staged by a family of three home-schooled children, accompanied by their mother.
“There are incredible acoustics,” Reinardy said, especially in one spot, where every sound from the audience and from passing vehicles on nearby Highway 71 can be heard.
The acoustics add to the enjoyment of the concerts staged in the bandshell during the summer concert series and community events.
The mural at the bandshell is Reinardy’s fourth project in his hometown. There was a lapse of 10 years between his first local project, the Marian mural at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in 2004, and the history mural downtown at the corner of the Original Main Street and Sinclair Lewis Avenue, completed in 2014-15.
The American Legion mural was completed in 2016, and this past summer the Palmer House mural of Sinclair Lewis was sandwiched in-between work on the bandshell.
Painting murals is a long stretch from Reinardy’s lifetime career as a commercial artist who designed beautifully artistic counted cross stitch and needlepoint projects. But when he moved home to Sauk Centre, he began to expand his horizons.
“I had my eyes on the Belmont Hotel wall,” he said. The downtown Sauk Centre mural, painted in six sections, is the showpiece of local history, and fast becoming a destination for visitors to the community.
That project had inspiration from Dave Simpkins, and help from artist Diane Leukam, and muralist Carol Bersin, along with a large number of local volunteers who helped paint in the various features in the mural.
While Reinardy did the majority of the painting at the bandshell, he had help from Mike Weisser, the project manager, and Susan Reinardy Hartigan, art director.
“We painted the big areas, and Roger let me paint a couple notes,” Weisser said.
The design evolved over the course of the project, Reinardy said.
“It came from many different directions. The keyboard started it. It went through a dozen different versions. It was two-thirds done when somebody suggested putting a guitar in it,” he said.
Then a lady sitting on a nearby bench and watching the progress suggested that musical notes be added.
It was on a pontoon ride with Alan Raitor’s son and daughter-in-law, that the suggestion was made to paint a figure in the mural. Alan Raitor, long-time Sauk Centre band director, was the obvious choice. The design was complete.
Work on the 86-year-old bandshell accomplished by Terry Crider’s crew included repairing the stucco, priming the interior, pressure washing and painting the exterior. Electrical was installed, and Paul Streitz installed LED lighting, which is left on all night 365 days a year.
The last piece of the project is the installation of an equipment ramp on the south side of the structure, to allow for easier access to the stage by musicians bringing in big equipment.
Fundraising was conducted by Pam Borgmann, who acquired a Community Legacy Foundation grant for the project. The city of Sauk Centre was very cooperative, along with the street and park departments.
“Vicki (Willer), the city administrator, was wonderful, and the City Council,” Weisser said. Plans had to be presented to the city and approved for the work to commence.
Many of the funds came $20 at a time from a Go Fund Me Internet site started by Borgman, and from individuals and organizations in the community. One woman donated the $1,000 earmarked for her retirement party, and one woman donated $2,000 in memorial funds after her husband’s funeral.
“The money just kept rolling in,” said Weisser, noting that the funds were used for the bricks and mortar, so to speak, while Reinardy donated his time and talent to the project.
The next Sauk Centre mural is already taking shape on Reinardy’s design board.
“Something library-themed, if we can get permission to do it, on the wall of the thrift shop next to the Sauk Centre Library,” he said. “Maybe a bookshelf with children’s books, with partly opened books and characters coming out and populating the mural.”