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Public servant extraordinaire 

click to enlarge L'AURA MONTGOMERY-RUTT

Sometimes, you want to go where everybody knows your name. Or, if you're Blondie, artist-in-residence at Tony's bar downtown, your mysterious sobriquet.

Wherever the nickname came from (he's not blond, and doesn't seem like he'd enjoy Dagwood's marital misadventures), Blondie is a ubiquitous figure at Tony's, excusing himself from conversations to do shots with the bartender, talk with the owner and patrons, or wax ecstatic about one of his favorite topics art and its importance in public settings.

Blondie, 38, recently painted a 7-foot blonde in a pink dress in Tony's hall. He also reframed a 3-by-3-foot section of the back wall, creating an inset of about 4 inches with a relief of a bar scene. Across the hall from the relief, his 11-foot oil painting on canvas hangs from the ceiling and almost touches the floor.

A woman approaches Blondie and says she doesn't know anything about art, but says the sculpture "interrupts" the painting. Blondie's quick to engage her in discussion, one of the important byproducts of art in public settings.

"When I was putting up the painting here, there were so many regulars, I think everybody thought that painting was theirs," he tells me later.

His purpose was to get people talking about art, and he's certainly done that. Eel Anderson, who bought Tony's in January 2006, already plans to have Blondie add another sculpture.

And Blondie hopes other businesses will start to commission public art, too.

"I'd like to see bars compete to outdo each other, with graffiti art and displays in windows," he says.

Photo by L'Aura Montgomery

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