A new mural on Marcado Central at Lake and Bloomington Avenues in Minneapolis

Art activates community. This is clear in South Minneapolis. Immigrant businesses have invigorated Lake Street in South Minneapolis. But the art that adorns the building exteriors takes the placemaking on the avenue to another level.

You might be surprised to know that a diverse mural tradition in Minnesota predates the current surge of multicultural, creative expression. In fact, the Twin Cities PBS proto-arts magazine series Wyld Ryce aired a funky-fresh video essay featuring notable murals in the area… 40 years ago.

As the 1979 ‘Wyld Ryce’ segment opens the Star Tribune’s enduring arts and entertainment bon vivant and booster Barbara Flanagan visits with Bob Schmitt in front of the famous sheet music mural on the Schmitt Music building where he briefly describes the early ‘70s origin of this downtown landmark art. That mural would later be the backdrop for an equally famous Prince photograph. Time Magazine also featured the photo in the historic ‘The Good Life in Minnesota’ feature.

Barbara Flanagan talks with acclaimed Ojibway artist George Morrison
Ta coumba’s memorable mural on the Pilot City building in North Minneapolis

Flanagan also chitchats with the late Ojibway artist George Morrison and Minnesota’s premiere public artist Ta-coumba Aiken. These two masters must be counted among America’s public art giants.

Pioneering Chicano artist/activist Armando Estrella appears and describes one of his early West Side murals. Estrella was key to securing funding from sources like COMPAS (Community Programs in Arts and Sciences.)

Some works featured are less historic but no less fun to see. My neighborhood’s long-standing Italian eatery Jakeenos shows up with its fresh foods mural adding color to its drab stretch of Chicago Avenue. There’s a glimpse of a mural on the exterior of the American Indian Movement’s Red School House. Those of us who spent time in the old Studio Arts building on the West Bank of the UofM will enjoy the brief aerial view of its multicolored facade. Many will recognize Chris Baird’s long-standing streetcar scene on Grand Avenue.

Some of the murals in this TV time capsule are still here. Sadly, some are long gone. As the piece suggests, all were important to the artist that created them and the neighborhoods they colored.

Among the ‘meta’ in this message-in-a-bottle from the late 70s is that it was created by one of the most important filmmakers in Minnesota history. Chris Spotted Eagle, credited as producer of the tpt segment, was a pioneering Native American filmmaker.

Spotted Eagle’s mural montage has a refreshingly roughhewn style and edgy, informal structure. There are curious drip-drops of sound effects, wildly divergent music cues, and neck-snapping cuts and transitions. The lack of context and identification of some of the work is a bit frustrating to those of us watching it in ‘the future.’ In fact, if you recognize some of the people, places and art pieces, please add that info in the comments… and enjoy this time-traveling mural art tour!


This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.