What does brown do for you?

New Lake Harriet bandshell color makes some blue

Lake Harriet visitors seem thrilled that volunteers and area businesses have covered the cost of overhauling the deteriorating bandshell, but the unexpected color change from blue/gray to brownish-taupe has left some surprised and a few miffed.

Grace Hayden of Fulton said she wanted white, or white with green trim, or something to give it a Cape Cod or slightly nautical feel.

"I hate this color; it's drab," she said, pausing from rollerblading. "It looks like a mushroom when you are on the other side of the lake -- a giant fungus."

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Jon Gurban said he knew of and approved the color change.

Gurban said he made the decision with Mark McGowan, the businessman and South Minneapolis resident spearheading the volunteer renovation effort. Gurban said he and McGowan consulted with Milo Thompson, the architect who designed the current bandshell, built in 1985.

According to Gurban, Thompson suggested the taupe (brownish-gray) color in 1985, but a citizens committee "went through a very long and elaborate process" and eventually compromised on sky blue.

"We went back to Milo and said, 'If you had the color to do again, what was the first choice?'" Gurban said. "That was taupe, and that is what you see."

Thompson's version is slightly different. He said in 1985, he gave the Park Board three choices: a warm French gray to simulate a weathered cedar shake, a taupe similar to the new color, and sky blue. He recommended the French gray and Park Board staff chose sky blue.

Thompson said he related the history to McGowan, and McGowan "looked at it as a possibility of coming back to something that was originally intended."

Thompson said he again made some color recommendations. He marked several color chips he thought would work, including the traditional blue and some warmer tones. McGowan said the Park Board staff made the decision.

Thompson counts himself among those happy with the change. The color is "much closer to what we had recommended originally. I am really quite pleased with the result," he said. "It is probably a little more taupe than we originally had as a choice, but nevertheless it is in that range."

Some people react to taupe with Minnesota nice. Two women chatting near the band shell (no names, please) said they preferred the old blue, but did not want to complain and detract from the volunteer effort.

One of the women said she was surprised the Park Board made the change without talking to the community.

Asked if the Park Board should have consulted the public, Gurban responded: "Why?"

Pressed further, he said timing was an issue.

"I am very appreciative of the bandshell project and the volunteerism and Mark McGowan," he said. "They needed to continue moving on the project, and so a color was selected and we went forward. Personally, I like the color."

Unscientific polls

Gurban said the Park Board had received a few complaints, but far more positives than negatives. McGowan said the feedback from more than 100 people was running 80 percent in favor of the new color. He said it is a wonderful thing people feel such a visceral sense of ownership and pride in the bandshell.

"I think it will look very elegant, very modern, once the trim is complete," he said.

The Southwest Journal spoke to more than two-dozen people who were walking, biking and rollerblading around the lake; four said they preferred brown, including Jana Salinger of Fulton.

"I think it will take a little getting used to," she said. "It looks more like the natural cedar shakes. It could use a dash of color somewhere, maybe the flags."

Eric Westly of Chicago said he liked brown best because "it blends in with the surroundings," Elisabeth Pletcher-Harnicar said the new color looked "fresh," and Christian Roseen, 12, who was biking with his brother and a friend, said he liked it "because it goes with the sand around the beach."

The reactions from the more numerous blue voters ranged from surprise to disappointment.

Joanna Brownstein of Kingfield said she was hoping the brown was a primer coat. "From the other side of the lake, you can't see [the bandshell] as well," she said.

Jamie Sebo of Linden Hills said "It doesn't look like a castle anymore. It looks like a big brown thing," and Annemarie Fruth, of Boulder, Colo., who grew up near the lake, said blue "looked more festive."

Some people's preferences were rooted in tradition and personal aesthetics.

"I am a blue person, blues and greens," said Kara Pfister of Lynhurst.

Said Michael Taylor, pausing from a bike ride with Elizabeth Hutchinson: "We are used to it blue. It is not a good reason. It is a startling change."

Moving ahead

Color dispute aside, no one questions the value of the volunteer effort to restore the landmark.

McGowan said nine paint contracting companies and their employees have donated more that 1,500 hours of labor: Bodine Painting & Decorating, Brushmasters, Chileen Painting, ICON Painting & Decorating, Novak Painting & Decorating, Pomereau Painting & Protective Coating, Smith Painting and Decorating, US VICO.com and Varsity Painters.

"Each paint company has exceeded the number of hours they had committed,"

he said.

On a recent day, Mario Arreola of Kingfield and Jesse Dowd of Longfellow spent time in a raised platform painting the support structure under the bandshell's roof.

Arreola, who works for Chileen, was working his fourth shift. He had thought about volunteering somewhere, such as Habitat for Humanity, he said during a break. "I attend the summer concerts here," he said. "I thought, 'What better place to do it than in my own neighborhood?'"

Dowd, who works for Bodine, said his boss asked employees to help on the project. "Everybody else is pitching in," he said. "It's a good thing."

Others with no professional painting background also chipped in, such as Curt Gutoske, a stay-at-home dad studying to be a secondary school social studies teacher.

Gutoske has done pressure washing, refilled paint buckets and done other basic tasks so the volunteer painters could work more efficiently, he said.

McGowan said Mick Sterling recently talked to Bradford Entertainment, Inc. and the company agreed to donate a $20,000 sound system to the bandshell, with the Park Board staff's approval.

Sterling has worked to organize Lake Harriet Live!, a free concert Sept. 19 to celebrate the bandshell's renovation.

Other new developments include plans to paint a cloud scene on the inside roof of the refectory, McGowan said.

McGowan is also organizing the Lake Harriet Preservation Fund to raise money for future improvements. For more information, see www.lakeharrietlive.com