Landscape activism & outdoor art

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Public art beautifies streets and adds a focal point for the surrounding community. It makes the street experience something more than just a walk down the sidewalk, and adds life and color to both drab stretches of urban landscape and otherwise unused rural lots – A mural can turn a nondescript office or apartment building into something colorful and dynamic; a sculpture can redefine the streetscape.

Minnesota’s support for art and aesthetics is evident through these outdoor displays, whether in the heart of the city or out in the quiet of the countryside.

Minneapolis murals

A loving Prince tribute mural
26th St. and Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408

No one was surprised when this this tribute to Minneapolis’ beloved son showed up in Uptown not long after his passing. It’s a grand purple display that features Prince in all of his glory, with his famous symbol to the right, located on the side of a building that currently houses Sencha Tea Bar on Hennepin. You can’t miss it heading toward Calhoun Square on Hennepin.

A grand Bob Dylan mural, corporate commissioned
5th Street and Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55401

The enormous kaleidoscope mural of Minnesota legend Bob Dylan, who cut his teeth playing in Minneapolis back in the 1960’s, is a colorful piece that redefines the corner of 5th Street and Hennepin Avenue, offering a stunning welcome to those getting off the light rail in the Warehouse District. The mural not only adds a little color to an otherwise brick and steel-heavy cultural section of the city, but it brings to life a local legend loved by residents and visitors alike.

A melodic, and historic Schmitt Music Mural
10th Street and Marquette Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Minneapolis might be known as the newer, flashier twin of the Twin Cities, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a good amount of history painted (literally) on the walls. An iconic piece of downtown Minneapolis, the large brick wall of the building at 10th Street and Marquette Avenue has the sheet music to to “Gaspard de la Nuit” by French composer Maurice Ravel painted on, and then as a testament to when Schmitt Music owned the building in the 1970s. Prince was there, Time Magazine was there, pretty much everyone has been there at least once. You can’t miss it coming downtown.

St. Paul murals

Midway Murals
Along Snelling Avenue between University and Minnehaha
St. Paul, MN 55104
www.midwaymurals.com

Along Snelling Avenue in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, between University Avenue and Hamline University, the dated buildings and offices were doing little to reflect the changing landscape around them. Commissioned as part of a greater effort to beautify Snelling Avenue, four murals now brighten the street heading north of University Avenue. The murals now reflect the influence of the diverse culture of the neighborhood. The Yuya Negishi, “Birth of a New Day,” at 689 Snelling Ave., is a nod to the neighborhood’s Korean influence. The other three: Lori Greene’s “Berbere” at 555 Snelling, Greta McLain’s “Braided,” at 512 Snelling and “Convergence” by BLASTER at 638 Snelling Ave., are all painted on East African businesses that have helped to rebrand the neighborhood as “Little Africa.”

The paintings add not only a notable brightness and beauty to the neighborhood, but offer a visual representation of the residents and businesses that call it home. A beautiful display of culture and creativity, the murals are a must-see and can be appreciated when traveling by foot, bike, car, or bus.

The Bigger Picture Project
www.thebiggerpictureproject.net

Taking the Green Line light rail down University Avenue is like taking a journey through the heart of St. Paul. There to accompany you on your journey are four murals depicting animals in motion: Painted in four separate but connected parts, wolves, rhinos, giraffes, turtles seem though they’re running with you alongside the train. You can find pieces of the mural on buildings at 633, 651 and 2145 University Avenue.

Sculpture on display

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
725 Vineland Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(651) 375-7600
www.walkerart.org

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (arguably the most famous of Minnesota’s outdoor art displays) featuring the Spoon Bridge and Cherry, arguably Minnesota’s most famous piece of outdoor art (or indoor for that matter), recently completed renovations to almost double their sun-soaked collection. You’ll find interactive pieces of modern art that continue a tradition of innovation and excellence.

Franconia Sculpture Park
29836 St. Croix Trail
Shafer, MN 55074
(651) 257-6668
www.franconia.org

In the middle of quiet Southeastern Minnesota, a collection of local, national, and international artists have created pieces the modern art, homages to the past, and just about everything in between for the enjoyment of the public. The expanse is a dynamic display of color and inspiration, and, surrounded by the green of nature and the quiet peace of the St. Croix River Valley, it’s a more calming experience than you might find at the aforementioned Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Note: The collection is always rotating – it’s worth visiting again even if you’ve already gone once.

Bemidji Sculpture Walk
1111 Event Center Drive N.E.
Bemidji, MN 56619
www.bemidjisculpture.org

Quaint downtown Bemidji introduced their charming Sculpture Walk back in 1999. Simply a creative display of local talent that adds another reason to stroll along the river and down the pleasant streets of the city, the Walk also features a changing array of work from local artists that creates a unique addition to a landscape not often known for pushing boundaries. And pushing boundaries does often lead to controversy, as it did in 2010 when a beaver statue named Gaea, celebrating womanhood in a manner upsetting to some local residents, was removed and then restored after a city-wide vote.

Western Sculpture Park
387 Marion St
St Paul, MN 55103
www.publicartstpaul.org

The always evolving sculpture park just west of the State Capitol is a colorful escape from the dense urban area that surrounds it. Inspired by the neighborhood’s history (it was once part of the now-razed Rondo neighborhood that helped shape St. Paul’s past), as well as the diverse culture that defines it today, the sculpture park is worth a stop for anyone visiting St. Paul, any of the incredible ethnic eateries nearby, while the Capitol and St. Paul Cathedral loom overhead.

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