Australian muralist coming to Minot…

Written by: Marvin Baker

A year after an announcement was made to paint murals on the side of a downtown Minot grain elevator, it appears the project is going forward.

Australian artist Guido Van Helten was in Minot recently to survey the premises and get a better idea of what exactly he will be doing.

A specific timeline hasn’t been announced, but originally, Van Helten was going to work through last summer to paint the elevator.

One thing is certain. The Minot Council on the Arts got the right guy to take on this job. Large murals are difficult in and of themselves, yet here Van Helten will be, scaling a 200-foot elevator. But this is the kind of work that made him famous.
Called silos in Australia, Van Helten has painted numerous grain elevators in the states of Victoria and New South Wales. Some of the images painted on those silos are stunning. So much so that the tiny village of Brim is now a tourist destination because of the murals Van Helten has done there.

You actually have to see Van Helten’s work before you can believe it. If you Google Guido Van Helten, you’ll see a lot of what he has done, and it’s far more than the sides of grain elevators. He’s painted giant murals on the sides of buildings, on dams and even hospital buildings.

I’ve known about Van Helten for several years through some friends in Australia. They’ve sent me numerous postcards, newspaper clippings and brochures about this unique artist. That’s why I was so quick to point out that Minot got the right guy to do this work.

Demand for Van Helten’s work is increasing and has been trending in the Australian media for several years now. He’s also worked in Europe as well as the United States. Some of his most recent work in the U.S. includes murals in Fort Dodge, Iowa and Mankato, Minn.

The Minot project is said to be the only work he will do in North Dakota. Van Helten is on a multi-state arts project that this year includes Minot. The elevator is the former Minot Farmer’s Co-op Grain Elevator which is downtown, next to the former Souris River Brewery and about a block north of Ebeneezer’s Restaurant.

If everything goes as planned, Van Helten will transform a dull, concrete structure towering over downtown Minot into a work of art. Will downtown Minot become a tourist destination like it did in Brim, Victoria, a town of 171 people located 233 miles northwest of Melbourne?

It’s likely people will want to watch Van Helten while he works. When he painted an elevator in Fort Dodge, he used a giant boom lift to get to the top. It took him an entire summer, and in fact, he worked well into the fall before that job was completed.

So, we can’t expect this to happen overnight. Rain delays, equipment maintenance, not having supplies on hand and wind, can all be factors in slowing the artist’s mural from being completed in a timely manner.

There’s no doubt Van Helten is good at what he does. But, he doesn’t come cheap. A report in a Minot newspaper suggested the cost will be roughly $350,000. It’s unclear if that includes the paint. Think of how much paint it takes to cover your house. Now, imagine the entire side of a grain elevator.

It’s unclear at this point what the mural is going to look like. Some of Van Helten’s other silo art includes farmers, first responders, nurses, teachers and of course, farm animals.

I’m sure the Minot Council on the Arts has an idea of what should be painted, but it isn’t yet being released to the public. Right now it’s a surprise.

Van Helten grew up in the Australian city of Brisbane, Queensland as a graffiti artist. And after attending Southern Cross University in Lismore, New South Wales, became interested in silo art to change some of the blase structures into something exciting to look at.

There aren’t a lot of people who do this kind of work and according to Australian media accounts, there’s nobody else like Guido Van Helten. Just look him up and you’ll understand what I’m describing.

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