Mural coming to life at Swanville Library showing local landmarks and businesses

Nancy Leasman adapting design from centennial book drawing

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

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The Swanville Public Library’s entry wall will be graced with a mural depicting local businesses, churches and other local landmarks. Long Prairie artist Nancy Leasman is working on the mural about one day every week.

Artist Nancy Leasman of Long Prairie is lending her talent to Swanville in the form of a mural on the wall of the library entrance.

“Librarian Diane Borgert had seen my note cards and liked their style, so she asked if I would paint this mural,” said Leasman.

Leasman has produced a number of large murals. For the Todd County Museum she completed six history murals as well as dioramas and signs. The mural in the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Long Prairie was done by Leasman, in addition to murals in the St. Mary’s Catholic School library and the CentraCare Clinic.

Using the pen and ink drawing from the cover of the Swanville Centennial Book as a guide, Leasman is putting Swanville businesses, churches, the school and the lake on the mural.

“It’s been a challenge trying to get the buildings in,” she said. “I had to take some artistic liberties in order to get everything on there.”

Work on the mural began June 5 and so far Leasman has put in just under 20 hours. Her time includes preliminary planning, photographing all of the businesses and other buildings and preparing to paint.

Leasman is using interior/exterior latex enamel, which has always worked well for her. “It’s a durable paint,” said Leasman.

When she did the museum project years ago, they had received a Valspar grant, so she used that paint and it worked well. “I still buy it by the quart,” she said.

Leasman is a chiefly self-taught artist. She studied art history on her own and took some college art classes. She has also taken classes from Myron Sahlberg of Alexandria Technical College, Professor Emeritus Bela Petheo of the St. John’s University art department and internationally-known artist Charles Kapsner of Little Falls.

“I learned an awful lot by just doing,” said Leasman.

She paints most often in a whimsical style. “I figure I’ve done about 400 scenes in that style,” she said.

Her scenes show life around Minnesota — farms, churches, main streets, the North Shore, Grand Marais, Tofte, landscapes and bridges.

Many of the scenes are featured on note cards. “There are 40 different sets. I print them myself in my home,” Leasman said.

Numerous homes in and around Long Prairie, Browerville, Little Falls, Staples and Fergus Falls feature murals by Leasman. The subjects range from carousel horses and Japanese water scenes to animals, birds and dinosaurs.

A couple of years ago Leasman challenged herself to finish a painting every day starting on Jan. 1. She met that challenge until May, when she became sick and got off track.

“Sometimes they were pretty small, sometimes pretty simple,” she said. “They were often ‘quirky.’”

The Leasman family enjoys doing their own food tastings, which have included nine types of bleu cheese, 30 kinds of pickles and a mustard tasting.

Leasman and her husband Ron own a vinegary, where they use wine and fruit and/or herbs to make flavored vinegar. Her book, Leatherwood Vinegary: A Winery Gone Sour, was published in 2010.

Some of Leasman’s paintings will be featured in an exhibit at the Morrison County Government Center in Little Falls starting July 10 and running into August.

The show’s theme will be food and wine-oriented. Each piece will be accompanied by a short synopsis.

More information can be found on Leasman’s Web sites at and