Realtor’s graffiti-friendly billboard returns to Burch building

LOWRY HILL — Realtor Cotty Lowry’s graffiti-ridden billboard is back by popular demand at the Burch building at Hennepin & Franklin, following a brief absence during the building renovation.

Lowry said the billboard has remained through 20 years and five owners. It was originally installed to post listings and brand Cotty’s gender-neutral name — he worried that his name evoked a housewife working part-time, something like “Muffy” or “Binky.”

People started defacing the billboard early on, perhaps painting blackened teeth or mustaches.

“People would call me and say, ‘I can’t believe what a good sport you are,’” Lowry said. “When in fact, this was the best thing that ever happened.”

The graffiti converted the billboard into a local icon, while still managing to bring in business. Lowry said it also served as an outlet for his “frustrated art endeavors” — he has a minor in arts and a major in landscape architecture. Each fall, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design uses the billboard for a month to advertise its student art sale.

“The billboard has a life of its own,” Lowry said. “It’s become part of the community over time, in a way I never could have imagined.”