JL Beers Gets Smart About Art

JL Beers offers more than beer, burgers

By Ashley Wirtzfeld and Misty Irving
MSUM Mass Comm Majors

The food-and-drink experience at JL Beers is not just about the food and drinks. The lucky few who get into the crackerbox-sized bar find the occasion enhanced by the decor. The walls are lined with poster-sized canvas photographs, and the subject matter may not be easily recognized without a little scrutiny.

"I didn’t realize what I was looking at until I looked closely," said Bill Maye of Moorhead "Once I knew what it was I was looking at, I thought it was really interesting."

JL Beers sign hangs above its entrance. Beer in the pipeline, photographed closeup
and printed on one of the gallery-style canvases that line the walls of JL Beers.
Photographed at close range, even cords
can become art.
A beer grate is photographed at close range, producing an industrial look.  

Each canvas portrays a run-of-the mill item in the bar or basement storeroom; the items were photographed at close range. Then the photos were blown up on canvas. Suddenly, common items take on the aura of art. In a much larger than life way.

"The pictures give off an industrial feeling," Maye said. "They’re fun to look at and they work well with the industrial feeling of the bar."

Warren Ackley, owner of JL Beers, with the help of a friend, took the photographs of various bar facets.

"These are photographs of things that are in here that aren’t familiar to our customers but are very familiar to me," Ackley said. "I just enhanced them and I thought they were interesting."

Once Ackley selected the photos, a downtown Fargo print shop, ShortPrinter.com, placed the images on canvas for him. ShortPrinter has seen a rise in requests for canvas prints.

Nearby print shop comes through for photographer 

Art on canvas is ‘on trend.’ Everyday objects, when zoomed in on, exude different texture and look.

"We actually just started doing them," said Kim Neisen, a ShortPrinter employee.

"But ever since we got the canvas, we’ve been getting a lot more requests. A lot of our customers are local, but we have a lot of customers around the world as well."

Artists have been using canvas as a means for displaying their art for centuries. And today, transferring photographs to canvas has become a major medium in the art world.

Owner carefully designs establishment

Ackley put an immense amount of thought into every design aspect of JL Beers. The original metal ceiling, the shape of the menus and the canvas artwork all contribute to the special but casual atmosphere of the establishment. Even the paper towel holders are distinctive with beer tap handles incorporated into their design. The photographs add a final touch that ties everything together.

"I hadn’t seen pictures like this before in a restaurant," Ackley said. "I like mechanical drawings, so I thought, ‘Why not mechanical photos?’"

Each canvas merits a closer look while patrons enjoy a beer and a burger.

**Installment three of a three-segment package about JL Beers.

Related Websites:

Short Printer’s Web site
JL Beers Web site
The Downtowner
Downtown Community Partnership


All photos by Ashley Wirtzfeld

Leave a Reply