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A century of history is taking shape on the side of a Beaverdale building as local artist Ben Schuh works to complete another mural.

The piece, "Timeless Beaverdale," was commissioned by the Des Moines neighborhood's centennial commission for the north wall of Uptempo Music and is expected to be complete in late August or early September.

In six years on the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association Board, President Sean Bagniewski said the mural is a rare project that everyone has agreed on. Members wanted an iconic, landmark piece of art.

"We wanted to think of the most ambitious thing we could do," he said. "And this is it. It's really gratifying to see it being received so well."

Archived photos of the neighborhood inspired the design, which includes nods to the area's character and history with depictions of a coal mine, the Urbandale Avenue Trolley, a classic Beaverdale brick home and a community event.

Schuh, a Grand View graduate and founder of the art company Plum Forward Corporation, said he hopes the piece brings awareness of local history to people of all ages. His work includes murals at Exile Brewing Co., the Iowa Taproom, Legends and a shipping container on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, as well as live paintings done at the Iowa State Fair, Waukee Arts Festival and more.

"My overall goal as an artist is to create work that anyone can interact with," Schuh said. "Whether they can purchase a piece or if they are just walking by."

If they linger for a while, they might discover details like that white marks on the letters spelling out Beaverdale are in the shape of railroad ties. Schuh planned details with local streetcar historian Earl Short, whose father was a streetcar operator when that mode of transportation was helping Des Moines flourish. The city's streetcar era ended in 1951.

The typography Schuh selected for those letters uses the same angles that are formed where Urbandale and Beaver avenues intersect, he said.

While he paints, passersby have stopped to take photos and give Schuh positive feedback on the work as it progresses, he said. 

Schuh let the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association make and sell prints of the mural to help with fundraising. Money has also come from donations, special events and the Polk County Board of Supervisors, as well as centennial pint glasses and T-shirts that are sold on Tuesday evenings at Beaverdale's farmers' market.

"If you put the Beaverdale logo on something, it sells," Bagniewski said. "There's a sense of community and neighborhood that's always been here. When you know Beaverdale and you've lived here, it's always with you."

The work joins many other installations in Des Moines — a city that, with the Des Moines Public Art Foundation, Schuh said understands the importance of public, accessible art.

"So many people take art for granted," he said. "Des Moines has a world-class collection of art."

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