Local artist Trey Everett creates a new sign for historic theater's marquee.

Curb-appeal enhancements continue to be made at Crookston’s historic Grand Theatre, considered the longest continuously operating movie theater in the United States. This past summer, manager Brian Moore replaced a bunch of old light bulbs on the marquee and had neon lighting installed. And, now, Crookston artist Trey Everett has completed his sign creation that’s situated in the center of the marquee.

It’s just the latest artistic contribution from Everett, who draws a weekly editorial cartoon for the Times’ opinion page, and at the recent Chalk It Up and Queen City Art Festival downtown, he crafted one of the event’s signature pieces, drawing colorful images on multiple large panels of wood, and when they were pieced together like a puzzle, several snails emerged.

Discussing the Grand Theatre sign project, Everett said Moore reached out to him in August during Ox Cart Days, wondering if he’d be interested or if it was even possible to come up with an original sign creation for the marquee. Everett tells the Times he was excited early on, but as time past and the magnitude of the project weighed on him, he “got a little nervous” and “sat on it for a while.”

“I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it justice or not,” Everett recalled. After a week or so, he said his “creative courage showed up” and he decided to give it a go. He came up with a design, and Moore and Grand staffer Bo Brorby approved. Next up was trying to pick a day that wouldn’t rain to actually start transferring his design to the actual sign. Around this time, Everett did some research on what paint and other materials to use for an outdoor sign like the one he was envisioning, and he also got some tips from Crookston High School art teacher Gary Stegman on how to best paint on a plastic surface.

Meticulous process
Everett transferred the original 8 x 11 inch image in a large sheet of 13 x 8 foot paper donated by Crookston Paint and Glass. Once the image was drawn on the large sheet, he poked small holes in the outlines that would serve as a guide when transferring the image onto the sign. Moore helped him tape up the paper onto the marquee, and then Everett used a Sharpie marker to make a faint outline through the holes.

“Then the paper came down and I started painting,” he said. It took two days. He used a combination of paint and black marker for the image, and a “fair amount” of tape. He also used his painter’s stick, known as a “mahl stick,” which is a thin pole with a sock-covered tennis ball on the end. “It gives extra support and steadies your hand while painting,” Everett explained. “It also aids in painting straight lines.”

So will the sign stand up to four distinct seasons and often harsh weather elements common for northwestern Minnesota? Everett said Stegman told him that quality acrylic paint will last a long time on plastic. But in the hope of maximizing the sign’s longevity for any significant deterioration is apparent, he’s checking with Crookston Paint and Glass on some sealant recommendations.

“Brian said the sun only hits the marquee directly early in the morning, so hopefully we can avoid a lot of wear from the sun,” Everett said.

Now that he has the sign finished and he’s proud of the result, Everett said he’d like to stay busy.

“I loved doing this and welcome more projects if other businesses are interested,” he said. “Thanks to Brian and Bo for asking me.”