Artist adorns bowling alley with Albany, famous faces

Article from St. Cloud Times 2004 -----

Besides knocking down a few pins and knocking back a few beers, patrons at the Albany Bowling Center can check out a mural inspired by Dutch painter Jan Steen starting next week.
When it opens for the fall Wednesday, the Albany Bowling Center’s mural featuring 48 local faces and eight famous people will be completed – or close to completion – after existing for about three years as a work in progress.
The mural was started by artist Sean Sullivan in August 2001. It stretches about 75 feet, filling the walls of the Spare Time Lounge with some of the faces that frequent the Albany Bowling Center. The mural depicts a bar scene, outdoor scene and landscape.
“Fantastic! I think it looks great,” said Terry Thelen, 52, as he caught his first glimpse of himself on the wall. Using local faces gave the mural a “real nice touch,” he said, as he attempted to name the faces on the wall.
Bowling alley co-owner Steve Bates had the idea for the mural about eight years ago when he was watching the opening sequence of a “Cheers!” rerun, and he thought about all the regulars at the bowling alley.
He started poring through art books to find inspiration and approached his cousin, Sullivan, about six years ago at a wedding. The men modeled the mural after the 17th-century Dutch paintings because Bates liked the style. It was the first time that painters depicted the life of the middle class in their daily activities, Sullivan said.
Sullivan, who grew up in Melrose and lives in New York, worked with Bates to incorporate 48 local people in the mural. The men made an effort to put people in character – or at least in their mid-17th century counterpart.
Gordy Dirkes – who has worked at the bowling alley for about seven years as a cook, bartender and waiter – is stoking a fire in the mural.
“I thought it was kind of an honor,” said Dirkes, 22, about being portrayed.
Bates is shown in the painting playing cards with his bowling team. A few people good –naturely agreed to be portrayed as heavy drinkers.
The eight famous people are some of Bates’ favorite actors, musicians and sports heroes. They are Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray, James Taylor, Carlos Santana, Bud Grant, Tom Kelly, Isaiah Thomas and Mark Knopfler.
The painting includes details such as a woman cheating at cards, a Twins symbol on Tom Kelly’s hat and a group playing skittles – a precursor to bowling.
“You could spend hours studying all the different faces and people,” Thelen said.
Bates also included a tribute to his older brother who was hit and killed by a bus at the age of 5. An angel overlooks a cliff in the corner of the mural.
Sullivan painted the mural using indoor house paint, using about 12 colors to build the palette.
He designed the mural by studying the compositions of 17th-century Dutch paintings. Using a computer program, he cut and pasted some of the compositions into a scaled drawing, he copied the drawing on transparencies and projected it on to the wall as a guide.
He posed the local models in the compositions and took their pictures, using their faces and bodies for the details.
Sullivan, a filmmaker who teaches at Pratt Institute in New York, has painted it in spurts during vacations. He said that painting the mural took about 10 weeks.
“I’m really tickled with how it’s turned out,” Bates said.
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1450 Railroad Ave • Albany, Minnesota 56307 • 320-845-4732