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Small Town Mural Sparks Diversity Discussion

Rush City Council has threatened legal action if the company does not repaint its artwork, but after public backlash, the mayor is urging it to reconsider.

RUSH CITY, Minn. – A mural promoting diversity in a small town has caused a huge outcry after the company behind it was threatened with legal action by the city.

The mural depicting raised fists of all skin tones emerging from a flower garden was commissioned by Erin and Jason Oare, owners of Hairdo or Dye salon in Rush City for 13 years.

“We wanted to convey inclusivity and togetherness,” Erin Oare said. “It was really important for us to make sure that people who don’t normally see themselves represented are represented. Especially in a small community like this where they wouldn’t normally be able to see something like that.”

The Oares did not expect to see their small community send them a zoning violation notice in response. The letter informed them that they had to repaint the mural within 10 days, or face a criminal misdemeanor charge.

“I guess there’s a bit of shock and disbelief,” Jason Oare said. “That we were not brought to the table prior to receiving this notice of violation.”

“And we couldn’t get the minutes of the meeting, so we have no idea what was discussed or anything,” Erin Oare said. “There was no wall ordinance. There was nothing that said we couldn’t do it.”

According to a public statement from Rush City Mayor Dan Dahlberg clarifying the violation, it was issued because “according to our interpretation of the (zoning) code, anything not explicitly permitted is considered prohibited.”

This explanation did not sit well with many who live in the area.

“If you had painted a hair dryer on the building, I don’t think anyone would have said anything,” Cindy Erickson said.

A post about the breach, which went viral online, prompted many to stop by the store on Tuesday, and many more to register for an event planned for the weekend to “Save the Wall”.

“I think it’s beautiful and colorful,” said Judy McPherson. “This town needs a little color, and it emphasizes that anyone who walks into the store is welcome and loved, no matter what color they are.”

“We feel a ton of support and love from everyone because of this and it’s been very heartwarming,” Erin Oare said.

In his statement, Mayor Dahlberg acknowledged that support and said he was working to resolve the issue.

“Obviously this piece of art has sparked an important conversation in our community and gives us the opportunity to close the code loophole. As Mayor of Rush City, I will ask our City Council to have an open conversation about how we can clarify and fill in the gaps in the Code On a personal level, I believe the mural is a well-done work of art and deserves more positive attention.

“I think it’s a big step in the right direction,” Erin Oare said. “I think it’s proof that there is power in people, and the people supporting us and lobbying the city have made a difference…hopefully.”

On Tuesday, the Oares said they received an email from the city administrator seeking to schedule a meeting with the city council on Nov. 7 to discuss the mural. So far, however, they have not been notified of their breach, which carries the November 5 deadline.

“What we think is Saturday our Day 10 is over and we are in breach of that order,” Jason Oare said. “We would like this to be reversed since the mayor himself called the code ‘deficient’.”

“It would be nice if everyone could come together and realize that this is a beautiful piece of art, which makes the community brighter,” Erin Oare said.

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