'The Butcher's Bill' 

Tallying the true cost of war

The Magic Bus, located on the corner of Broad Ripple Avenue and Compton Street in Broad Ripple, sells everything from incense and music gear to cigarette rolling papers and tobacco pipes. Owner Stephen Arthur gladly keeps everyone’s mind and spirit happy, but he also wants to keep everyone informed. “The Butcher’s Bill,” a large painting by employee Paige Anderson that dominates the storefront window, is a constant reminder of the ever-rising death toll in the Iraq war.

Though the work of art is tastefully done, and doesn’t misrepresent or slander anyone, the artist acknowledges that some people still find fault with it. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Anderson, who is a painting major at Herron School of Art and an employee of the Magic Bus. “That’s what makes it worthwhile. It’s the older vets, the ones who were in previous wars that come in and tell us it’s disrespectful and wrong.”

“Most people won’t speak out and criticize their government, they’re afraid to, but I’m not,” says Stephen Arthur, the store owner. “It’s my moral duty to inform people of what is happening on the other side of the world, things they may not know about,” he explains when asked why he decided to hang the controversial painting in his storefront.

The name for the piece was inspired by Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte and dates back to the French Revolution. Bonaparte would gather his men at the end of each day and compile a list of the casualties; he called this “The Butcher’s Bill.” While his employee Anderson is the creator of the Magic Bus’ “Butcher’s Bill,” her boss Arthur, keeping with tradition, continually changes the death toll on the painting according to the mounting death toll in Iraq.

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