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Rush City officials order saloon owner to remove mural depicting racial inclusivity

RUSH CITY, Minn. — A mural with a message of inclusion is pushed back by municipal leaders in a northern Minnesota town. The mural is on the side of a barber shop on Main Street in Rush City, about an hour north of the Twin Cities.

“We wanted to make sure people who aren’t normally represented are, especially in rural areas like this, because they might not normally see it,” said Erin Oare, owner of Hairdo or Dye. .

Oare hired a local artist to paint the mural on the side of his living room last week.

A building that belongs to her, with a message that she wants to convey.

“We really wanted to send a message of inclusivity and coming together,” Oare said.

Rush City officials sent a zoning violation notification to Oare explaining that this mural violates the city charter as there is no mural ordinance in place at this time. The city code says, “Whenever in a zoning district, if a use is neither specifically permitted nor denied, the use shall be considered prohibited.”

The city told Oare it had 10 days to remove the mural.

“We don’t expect to paint over it within 10 days like they say we have to,” Oare said, “We hope the breach will be undone by then.”

Rush City residents and business owners are paying attention to what’s happening between the town and Oare, so far the majority of opinions on the mural have been positive.

“The mural is beautiful,” said Pam Hagen, who owns a shop a stone’s throw from the mural. She welcomes the new artwork.

“I don’t know why a beautifully hand-painted, friendly expression of diversity should go down,” Hagen said.

Rush City is a small farming town, where diversity is rarer, but Hagen thinks that’s something their town should embrace.

“I’m sure it will be very controversial, we are a very divided country at this stage, but for me it is representative that we have to include everyone,” Hagen said.

“It shouldn’t be political,” Oare said, “It’s just everybody coming together.”

Following all the attention to this controversy, on Tuesday afternoon, the Mayor of Rush City sent a statement to WCCO regarding the future of the mural and the city code:

The City recently notified the owners of Hairdo or Dye that the newly painted mural on their west wall was a violation of our municipal code. According to our interpretation of the Code, anything that is not explicitly permitted is considered prohibited. Clearly, this artwork has sparked an important conversation in our community and gives us an opportunity to address the Code’s deficiency.

As Mayor of Rush City, I will ask our City Council to have an open conversation about how we can clarify and close the gaps in the code.

On a personal level, I believe the mural is a well-made piece of art and deserves more positive attention.

– Mayor Dan Dahlberg

Oare is hosting a support party to save the mural this Saturday at the salon at 12 p.m.

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