For those driving along downtown Beatrice, there’s a big, new addition that’s hard to miss southwest of the Fifth and Ella intersection. “Beatrice, Site of America’s First Homestead” is the second piece commissioned by Main Street Beatrice, with the first depicting various city landmarks, which was completed last October by local artist Tyler Rinne and located along the Highway 77 and Highway 136 intersection downtown.
Main Street Beatrice Director Michael Sothan said that the first mural was never intended to be a one and done project, and that Main Street is interested in doing different public art forms created by local artists in the future.
“The main reason for bringing public art is because it provides a very unique, emotional reaction, and just a feeling of positivity, of brightness, and they’re really uplifting,” Sothan said. “They’re places that our young people and our families want to take pictures at. We’ve seen them in senior pictures and other things, and they’re just these bright spots in the community to help people call this place home, and for people visiting here to kind of hear a little bit of the story about what are some of those things that make Beatrice, make our area a fun and great place to be.”
The artist for the mural is Wymore native Sydney Saathoff. She explained that the history of Beatrice was one of the design concepts, and what Main Street ultimately chose, asking her to add a homesteader with a horse and plow to the orange and blue painted scene.
“It kind of brings more creativity to the town, a little more color, a little more pop,” Saathoff said. “I feel like this illustration, and the one down the street, just brings more life to downtown.”
Saathoff said she has a background in graphic design, but that the 30 by 80 foot space along Lepant Law Office is her first mural.
“I’m a little shocked at how big it is,” Saathoff admitted. “I don’t know why I chose to do something that big for the first one. But I think the beginning was the hardest, because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I’m also not confident with being really high up here. I’ve been asked by a couple of other businesses and towns to do some for them. I don’t know if I’d do one this big again, but I’ll definitely do smaller ones.”
Since Saathoff works full-time, she said she spent evenings and weekends finishing the mural, with lots of honks of encouragement from those driving by, and even some help from Beatrice Police officers, who will see this mural across from their department for years to come.
Sothan said this project was supported through community donations largely from Big Give Gage, the Gage County Foundation, the Hevelone Foundation, Lepant Law Office, Mead Lumber and Main Street Beatrice.
“This mural is being seen by a lot of middle school students and their families, just because of its proximity to the middle school, so it’s been fun to see a younger and different segment of the community really engaging with it in a positive way,” Sothan said. “We’ve heard a lot of great things.”
The mural was recently completed over a span of roughly four weeks, and Sothan said an unveiling party is tentatively planned for Saturday, Oct. 9, for the public to meet Sydney, see the project and talk about public art in Beatrice. More information about the unveiling will likely be shared through the Main Street Beatrice Facebook page, or mainstreetbeatrice.org/
“We’re in the process of trying to consider what that next project is, and a lot of it will really depend upon donations and money that we’re able to raise to make these happen,” Sothan said. “This public art is in addition to Main Street’s primary mission, which is around downtown historic preservation and economic development work. So these are just some of the nice additions to the community, but with that being said, the only way we’re able to get this accomplished is through donations from the community.”