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Ron Albert, Tina Yager (left) and Lili Payne (right) take a break from painting a mural on an exterior wall of the Ace Hardware in downtown Robbinsdale.

A three-person team descended on a former white-washed wall at Ace Hardware in downtown Robbinsdale the last week of September. By the time the weekend rolled around, every brick was covered in vibrant shades of blue.

This mural is the result of a collaboration between painters Lili Payne, Tina Yager and Ron Albert. The three are well-established in the local painting scene. Payne and Yager just wrapped work at the Rosedale Mall Playroom, which features a Paul Bunyon theme, and Payne had a hand in completing the flower-adorned face at the entrance of the Elision Playhouse in Crystal. Albert is a painter for Target Corporation and aids at the company’s photo studio.

Yager and Payne are president and vice president, respectively, of the Guild of Scenic Artists board. The guild seeks to connect makers of theater, film and television set scenery across the country.

“Working with Tina and Ronnie is easy,” said Payne. She waves a printed rendering of the completed mural. “You just give them this thing and say ‘go pick a spot and start painting.’”

Payne has created murals and scenic art for the Guthrie and Children’s theaters, Rainforest Cafe, Macy’s special events team and Loews Hotel Minneapolis.

The artists move quickly. Within a few minutes, the torso of a wrestler takes shape in black and white. When the artists stop for a picture, Payne touches a spot she had just had her brush on moments ago. She said because it’s such a sunny day, the paint is drying in seconds.

If the good weather continues, the group figured they’d be done in a few days. They bide their time by playing music on a stereo and chatting with curious passersby about the project.

Payne knows the blue background will make the mural impossible to miss. She continued the eye-catching theme with repeated bright greens, yellows and purples.

“I just wanted something bright and kind of crazy,” she said.

Two wrestlers are depicted in action, a nod to the storied professionals that came out of the city in the 1970s, including Curt Hennig, Barry Dorsaw and Brady Boone. A seated woman is a direct reproduction of a Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang! magazine cover, a post-wartime publication created by Robbinsdale resident Wilford Hamilton Fawcett. A bright red tomato on a fork represents the lively restaurant scene, and a beer in the hand of the Whiz Bang model is an ode to the city’s local craft brewers.

Of course, the Birdtown mural wouldn’t be authentic without a few birds, so a few photorealistic American robins are scattered around on the design.

The mural is at 4140 West Broadway Avenue.

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