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Pabst Blue Ribbon picks Davenport artist as finalist in Art Can Contest
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Pabst Blue Ribbon picks Davenport artist as finalist in Art Can Contest

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If she went out for a drink, Davenport visual artist Kalli McCleary probably would choose bourbon or whiskey, she said. But since she was picked this month as one of the finalists in Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Art Can Contest, the 29-year-old has become a PBR fan as well.

“I had a friend actually send it to me,” McCleary said Monday of her introduction to the nationwide contest, in which the top winner could earn $10,000 and have his or her design placed on over 30 million PBR cans. “He’s a big PBR drinker.”

“It’s cool they support artists,” she said.

The contest was launched in 2014, and since then, PBR has put original art on over 300 million cans and awarded over $100,000 to emerging artists. The 2020 contest will be judged in partnership with Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine. For over 25 years, Juxtapoz has supported and documented underground art.

"PBR has done an excellent job building a great contest in addition to consistently creating opportunities for artists to earn a living,” Mike Stalter, a Juxtapoz representative, said in a press release about the contest. “The enormous distribution opportunity means major exposure for winners, so we're excited to be involved and help judge submissions this year.”

“The Art Can Contest allows us to literally turn our biggest platform into a blank canvas for an emerging artist,” said Andrew Heard, brand manager of art at Pabst Blue Ribbon. “We put original art in the hands of millions every year and allow our customers to experience incredible art wherever they are enjoying a Pabst Blue Ribbon.”

There were roughly 3,000 entries this year. Of the top 20 finalists chosen by the company and Juxtapoz representatives, three were from Illinois (Chicago, Plainfield, and Rockford).

The top three winners will be chosen by the public at pabstblueribbon.com/art-contest-2020-finalists. The winners will be announced Friday, Feb. 28.

Only the top winner will have his or her design featured on over 30 million cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon nationwide. The prizes will be $10,000 for first place, $3,500 for second and $1,500 for third.

McCleary’s PBR design depicts a masked thief running away with the PBR logo, accompanied by a similarly masked raccoon accomplice.

“I really love raccoons; it kind of spun from that idea,” she said. “It’s more simple and commercial. The other entries, they’re really great entries, I didn’t know if my simplicity would hold up next to the other ones. It was a good little surprise.”

Each of the designs had to incorporate the PBR logo and a red, white and blue color scheme.

McCleary does commissioned artwork and enjoys painting and inks, as well as working with Adobe Illustrator. “I like just taking ideas in my head and making them into something tangible,” she said.

A native of Muscatine, McCleary majored in marketing at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, graduating in December 2012. She’s mainly self-taught in graphic design, and for the past six years, she worked in marketing at Royale International Beverage Company in Davenport.

She was U.S. marketing manager for the global smoothie and frozen-drink firm until she recently left for a new job.

The Art Can Contest is just one part of PBR's commitment to supporting art around America, the company release said. Since 2016, PBR has commissioned over 175 original murals across the country, and in 2019, it launched the first National Mural Day, putting up murals in more than 13 cities across the country.

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