Painting of Verso paper mill commissioned to honor Sartell landmark
When the Verso paper mill in Sartell closed for good following a fatal explosion, Ken Schulte, of Sartell, turned his love of the mill’s history and what it meant to the community into art.
Schulte works at Edward Jones in St. Cloud and had the idea to commission a Midwestern artist to memorialize the century-old-plus mill in Sartell with a painting.
“It’s a fundraiser for retired Sartell firefighters to use for their community service projects and just to promote community awareness,” he said of the prints made from the artwork.
The retired firefighters’ community service projects include helping change smoke detectors and donations to fund Sartell school and city projects, according to Schulte.
“Over the years, people are going to forget what was standing at that site,” he said of the artwork entitled A Time to Remember.
Schulte said he grew up across the street from the mill, which began operating in 1905 before a large fire resulting from a 2012 explosion killed one and injured four others.
“The artist had done some previous paintings for our fire department,” said Schulte, who was a volunteer firefighter in Sartell for more than two decades before recently retiring.
The artist is J.D. Speltz, of Armstrong, Iowa. He has been awarded 10 state stamps and three national print commissions, according to the painter’s website of achievements.
Schulte said, “We wanted to encompass the paper mill’s long history in the community, so what he did was kind of a panoramic view of what it looked like in the early days with some of the buildings and the other years all behind it with the big blue building.”
The framed limited edition prints are being sold for $120 each and includes the names of all the business entities that owned the paper mill at one time or the other, like Watab Pulp and Paper, St. Regis, Champion International, International Paper and Verso.
“We’ve sold just over a hundred … and we’re going to be ordering some more … so we’re looking at getting 200 out … now that the paper mill has been completely moved from the grounds,” he said of the prints and the mill that left hundreds jobless.
Speltz has partnered with conservation groups and civic organizations to help them raise funds for conservation and community projects with his artworks; more than 480 groups have raised over $2.5 million that way, according to the artist’s website.
“I’ve had prints that were sold and sent to North Carolina because their dad or their uncle worked at the paper mill and they grew up in Sartell,” said Schulte. “The prints bring back a memory of a great business that once was in our city.”
For more information about the framed limited edition prints commemorating the Verso Paper Mill in Sartell or to purchase a print, contact Ken Schulte at 320-761-4460.