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Who drew that? Juba’s chalkboard artist revealed
July 16, 2017

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If you shop at Juba's Super Valu in Blue Earth, the abundance of artwork is hard to miss.

Filling the wall behind the lineup of grocery carts is a piece of artwork that greets customers and often touts the week's specials.

And every Monday morning it is new.

Customers have been commenting on the artwork and questioning who the artist is.

The answer they get is that it is done by Blue Earth resident James Anderson who just happens to be Juba's Super Valu owner Tom Juba's son-in-law, married to his daughter Ann.

And, he is not a full-time artist. He actually drives a fuel truck around the Mankato-Clear Lake, Iowa, area.

"I have enjoyed drawing most of my life," Anderson says. "I think I started in first grade and never stopped."

After he and wife Ann had children (Nyla, 19, Carson, 16, Cameron, 14 and Isaac, 10), Anderson started decorating a black board in their kitchen with chalk artwork especially at birthday and holiday times.

"It all started there at home," he recalls. "I loved to draw and there was a chalkboard on the wall."

Then, in December of 2015, he suddenly had a big idea.

"I was in Juba's Super Valu and there was this big bulletin board on the wall by the grocery carts," he says. "I suddenly thought it would be the perfect place for a large chalk board one that I could draw on."

He was talking to his brother-in-law, Tim Juba, and threw out the idea. A couple of days later Juba came back and said it seemed like a good idea and to give it a try.

So Anderson came in, took down the bulletin board and stripped the wall, then painted it with chalk board paint, waited for it to dry, and got to work on his first drawing, a Christmas holiday scene. And, of course, a few specials of the week.

And, he has done one almost every week for the last year and a half, with just a week or two missed due to family vacations.

"I come in about 9 p.m. every Sunday night," Anderson says. "It sometimes takes me until one or two in the morning to get it done."

His latest drawing, downtown Blue Earth with the Green Giant walking down Main Street in recognition of Giant Days, actually took him two nights to do. And then, because he had so much time invested into it, he left it up another week with just some changes in the wording.

"When I get to the store on Sunday night, the first thing I have to do is erase the drawing from the week before," he says. "And it is sometimes hard to erase that, something I worked so hard to do."

He washes the whole board area, twice, using two 5-gallon buckets of water. He says he needs to start with a perfectly clean slate.

Next, he sets up his chalks on a big board that sits across the rows of shopping carts and gets to work.

"I have done a drawing on paper of my idea," he says. "And I work off that, drawing for a few hours with the chalk."

He has a lot of chalk, which he buys at Hobby Lobby, in a vast array of colors.

But where does he get his ideas week after week?

"I spend my week driving my truck 300 to as many as 500 miles a day," he says. That gives me a lot of time to think about what the heck I am going to draw on the wall the next Sunday night."He says others, including his wife, Ann, also give him some good ideas.

"She mainly gives me some theme she has thought of for the season we are in," Anderson says. "And I take a lot of pictures of things I think would work in my drawings."

The huge American flag that dominated the space for the Fourth of July was from a photo he took of a flag on the side of a train locomotive in Iowa, for instance.

"And, of course, my brother-in-law Tim gives me a store flyer every week so I can add some weekly specials to the drawing," the 1988 Blue Earth Area High School grad says. "Although Tim wonders if people only look at the drawing."

There is another Anderson chalk drawing in the store, right above the produce specials. That one does not change, and has been there for a while.

And soon there will be another one, way up on the south wall of the store, in the produce aisle.

"I have the area primed on the wall and ready to be painted with chalkboard paint," Anderson says. "But it won't be changed weekly it will probably be the same for six months or so. Then maybe I will do another one on the meat wall, too."

All because, he says, he truly enjoys doing it.

"It's fun," he says. "And it is nice to hear all the comments about it. People seem to really like it."

And is he planning on quitting it at some time? No, he says.

"I just plain enjoy it too much to quit," he explains. "And since people like it, I will keep on doing it. You know, I never really thought it would be such a hit around town. It seems my drawing connects with people, which is pretty cool."

It does seem to be something people want to check out each week when they go grocery shopping at Juba's.

And, what is the plan for the drawing on the wall this coming week?

"I'm not sure yet," Anderson says. "I guess you will just have to stop in on Monday morning and see what I came up with."

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