New Cuban mural in Kingfield will be moved

The Cuban mural that raised some eyebrows in Kingfield last month will be moved.

Cuban muralist Lidia Aguilera Snchez was only in Southwest for two weeks in August, but she left her mark on the Kingfield neighborhood in paint and pain -- especially for Nikki Valens, co-owner of Victor's 1959 Caf, 3756 Grand Ave. S. and Aguilera Sanchez's sponsor.

For now, Valens can admire the vivid mural from her business's front door. Soon, she will see it only when she takes out the trash.

The mural, now on the west side of Peter Pan Dry Cleaners, 322 W. 38th St., will move to the east wall of the Petersen Flowers building at 410 W. 38th St. in late September.

The owner of the Peter Pan Dry Cleaner's building, who was reportedly not contacted for permission to paint the mural, demanded the move.

Valens said the mural replaced a blank white billboard. "It was blank for 15 years before we did the mural," Valens said. "It's absurd."

Peter Pan building owner Sally Swadden's insistence that the mural come down may also have some scratching their heads. Swadden, a St. Louis Park resident, said she likes the mural, but it's too noble to leave on her building.

"It's a very beautiful piece, but it's not fitting to put a religious mural on a dry cleaning plant," she said.

Swadden said the billboard is supposed to be used by the business --Peter Pan Dry Cleaners -- for prices regarding their services. However, Peter Pan's owners hadn't gotten around to a display yet and, as Valens noted, the mural has been blank for years.

The mural saga

Valens and her husband Victor hosted Aguilera Sanchez on her second U.S. visit. They offered her a chance to exhibit her work at their Southwest eatery, but her interests drifted to the blank canvas -- that billboard -- across the street.

Through an interpreter, Aguilera Snchez said her mural -- her first in the U.S. -- is called, " A song of the creation of my surroundings."

She said the main female figure in the mural is "Yemaya," the goddess of the sea in the Afro-Cuban culture, who is scooping up the fruits of the sea. Aguilera Sanchez said the doves symbolize peace and the palm trees tied together represent strength. "It symbolizes through unity, there is force," she said.

Numerous community members helped her paint the mural, which Aguilera Sanchez said impressed her. She said the community involvement was touching and rare in her experience.

Even before the mural was finished, two nearby business owners were concerned about the female figure's breasts that could bother families and business patrons. However, Valens said once the mural was finished, people seemed happy with it, even those who had mentioned concerns.

Now, Valens said the mural experience, which had started out great, has left her frustrated. "A few negative things can sometimes overpower the positive stuff," she said. "I'm exhausted from the negativity and just want to move it and get it over with."

It could have been worse: unlike most murals painted directly on exterior walls, Aguilera Sanchez painted hers on the blank billboard, which can be detached and moved.

The Kingfield Neighborhood Association supplied a $1,500 grant for the mural and helped to orchestrate the project, so Valens said they're debating financial help in the moving and replacement costs of the mural, which is bid at $3,350.

A new home nearby?

Petersen Flowers owner Glen Luedtke has Aguilera Sanchez's paintings proudly displayed in his business and said he's glad to have the mural on his building. He has visited her in Cuba and said he wants to keep the mural in the community for which she intended it.

"She gave the mural to the community from her," he said. "I can't believe they're going to whitewash it."

Luedtke said Aguilera Sanchez is a special lady, and he could not face her and tell her the mural was moved out of the neighborhood. He said if anyone doesn't like the mural being on his building, that's too bad. "I'm proud as hell to have it on my building," Luedtke said. "I'm not going to take it down."

Valens will host a fundraiser to save the mural Sunday, Sept. 21, 3-6 p.m. The event will feature Cuban music acts, Aguilera Snchez's art for auction and food donated by Victors.

Valens said she hopes they can raise the $3,350 needed to save the mural, but if not, all donations will go to a new and approved Kingfield mural.