A Brief History of Public Art in Minnesota - Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

2022-09-17 18:47:04 By : Stephen Chen

Earlier this summer, when Hiero Veiga’s $500,000 Prince mural was completed on First Avenue, it was met with oohs, aahs, and a little bit of controversy. Because, hey, when art’s outside, everyone tends to have an opinion. Let’s tag some other highlights in Minnesota public art history.

Minnesota historical Society (wakan tipi, Bull, Galtier ); Shutterstock: Sam Wagner (Grain Belt), Ritu Manoj Jethani (Walker), James Kirkikis (Moore), Mehaniq (graffiti), Steve Skjold (Prince); Alamy Stock photo: MediaPunch Inc (Floyd), Robert Mullan (Dylan)

Jonathan Carver, a mapmaker from Connecticut exploring the upper Mississippi, encounters a cave the Dakota called wakan tipi. He notes the petroglyphs—ancient rock carvings of rattlesnakes, turtles, birds, and humans.

Norwegian American sculptor Jacob Fjelde is commissioned to create a bronze of superstar Norse violinist Ole Bull, to be erected in Loring Park. The statue becomes emblematic of the burgeoning Norwegian immigrant community.

After a plaster version of Fjelde’s Hiawatha and Minnehaha stands at the Chicago World’s Fair and then for years in Minneapolis’s Public Library, the sculpture overcomes criticism that its subjects aren’t Native-looking and is cast in bronze and placed in Minnehaha Park.

While transporting an 18-ton boulder commemorating Father Galtier founding St. Paul to Kellogg Mall Park, the axle of the truck carrying it snaps. The boulder finally arrives two days later.

The gigantic bottle cap–shaped Grain Belt neon sign—glowing atop the Marigold Ballroom in downtown Minneapolis for almost a decade—is moved to Nicollet Island. The sign blinks off in ’75, is relit in ’89, goes dark again in ’96, and is relit (for good?) in 2017.

Minneapolis Star columnist Barbara Flanagan chides Schmitt Music for the ugly brick wall at its downtown headquarters. In response, Schmitt commissions a mural depicting the third movement of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit.

After Style Wars, a doc on NYC graffiti, debuts on PBS, a young Peyton Scott Russell is inspired to paint his first piece on North Star Elementary. By the following summer, Russell, now going by the handle Mackin’ Me, pairs with the street artist Viper to form the Wild Style Crew.

The Walker commissions a $500,000 cherry-shaped fountain by European sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen as a centerpiece for the opening of the new Minneapolis Sculpture Garden across the street. Spoonbridge and Cherry will become a symbol of Minneapolis.

Wing Young Huie installs 173 of his black-and-white photographed portraits at an outdoor gallery in Frogtown. Five years later, he’s inspired to display 675 of his portraits on a six-mile stretch of Lake Street in the landmark Lake Street USA.

When Peanuts creator Charles Schulz dies at the age of 77, his hometown honors him by commissioning 101 five-foot-tall fiberglass statues of Snoopy. In successive summers, Peanuts on Parade keeps rolling with Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the entire gang.

The TV Land cable network unveils a life-size bronze of Minneapolis’s most famous fictional resident, Mary Richards, of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The bronze Mary will forever be throwing up her beret on the corner of 7th Street on Nicollet Mall.

After nine years of teaching after-school graffiti art programs out of his studio on the North Side, Peyton Scott Russell’s Juxtaposition Arts is established enough to buy a building with (temporarily) blank walls on Emerson and West Broadway Avenues in Minneapolis.

Street artist HOTTEA, who made a name for himself by stringing yarn through chain-link fences to create elaborate graffiti-like tags, is commissioned by the Minneapolis Institute of Art to hang a piece in Mia’s Target atrium.

The owners of the 15 Building in Minneapolis hire Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra to paint a five-story-tall triptych of three eras of Bob Dylan.

Two weeks after Prince’s death, Peyton Scott Russell sneaks out and gold-leafs Prince’s star on First Ave’s famous façade under the cover of darkness. Management is initially upset at Russell’s poetic desecration of their property, but now they sell T-shirts of it.

Sam Durant is commissioned by the Walker to build Scaffold in the middle of a newly imagined Sculpture Garden. His sculpture of the gallows where 38 Dakota were hanged in Mankato in 1862 so outrages the Native community that the Walker is forced to commission its destruction.

In the aftermath of the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd, storefronts throughout the Cities are covered in plywood, which becomes a vast canvas for street art. In the same cultural moment, a statue of Columbus on the capitol lawn is toppled by Mike Forcia of the American Indian Movement.

Steve Marsh is a senior writer at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.

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