Andy Sturdevant is taking the month off; this is the first of four Strolls by guest authors.
When I came to Minneapolis for grad school in 2009, I chose Uptown because current students said the express bus routes made it easy to commute from here to the University of Minnesota. They also said it was a fun, vibrant neighborhood — highly walkable and bikeable and home to (or in the near vicinity of) a smorgasbord of restaurants, bars, cafes, musical venues, museums, parks and various other cultural attractions, not to mention the lakes. This turned out to be true, and while I currently live east of Lyndale Avenue — on the Whittier side — I’m still quite happy with my choice of neighborhood. I’ve lived in four different apartments in the area, but I’ve never lived more than five blocks from Lyndale. When I was invited to write this guest post, I thought what better street to explore than the major artery closest to my house — and yes, my heart?
One of the things I love about this city is that even after four years I haven’t run out of new sights to discover. I start my stroll by walking west down 24th Street toward Lyndale to get a cup of coffee at Urban Bean (housed in the space that Muddy Waters occupied, before it moved into its chicer new digs down at Lyn-Lake). The full-wall mirrored mosaic on the back of the building has caught my eye before, but I haven’t taken the time to really look at it until now. I never noticed the Sweet dreams script at the top, for instance.
I take a left at Lyndale & 24th and head south toward Lake Street. When I get to the Loon Grocery at 25th & Lyndale I head around back to snap a shot of another piece I’ve often passed by but haven’t fully investigated before. For the first time I realize I recognize the big-headed, monsterish style — Eleventh Wundr. The signature, reading “Shape & Wundr,” confirms. Those interested in the Ninjas and Turtles piece below will want to attend the exhibit finale for “ALMOST YESTERDAY: All-New Works by Eleventh Wundr” at Gamut Gallery in Downtown Minneapolis on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Moving back toward the front of the store, I realize how often I’ve biked or walked past the Loon without registering the circus-themed mural on the side facing 25th Street. I wonder why it’s half-obscured by a wooden fence and some dumpsters. While the paint on this piece is a bit faded and discolored, the ticket-selling gorilla intrigues me. With his hand reaching under the ticket counter, he seems especially surrealist. Why is he (or she) holding a blue flower and proffering a timepiece, and why is she wearing what looks like a breast cancer awareness ribbon? A polar bear sports the same ribbon. Every dreamy little detail suggests a possible personal story. Kneeling down to take a closer look, I’m touched by the little inscription I find below: “Dedicated to the residents and visitors of the Whittier neighborhood.”
I once again head south on Lyndale, passing Treehouse Records before I cross the street westwards at 26th Street. I head down the alley behind the Planet Soccer building. Walking south and into the Planet Soccer parking lot, I see the reflection of the gigantic AKB crew mural that covers the south-facing wall. This is one of the sights I had in mind when I began my stroll. I stop for at least a moment whenever I pass by it. I’ve never noticed the dedication in the upper left before, though. I wonder who Nikki and Keira are.
I move south again, toward Intermedia Arts on 28th & Lyndale. I recently finished a year of AmeriCorps serving with Youth Programs there.
Intermedia Arts is a nonprofit, multicultural community arts center with a mission to be a catalyst that builds understanding among people through art. Inside you’ll find an art gallery, a theater, staff offices and a shared workspace (Arts Hub) that’s home to multiple smaller organizations. The outside walls are referred to as the outside gallery, and they’re curated by JoJo (of murals by EROS). He’s a well-known local aerosol/ graffiti artist. He accepts proposals for pieces from crews and artists throughout the year and determines what goes up when, and when the next piece will go up over it. He also teaches summer camps and after-school workshops in aerosol and graffiti art, along with Peyton Scott Russell.
When I called this place my workaday home, I loved the way the walls looked different when it rained and the paint seemed bright and wet. Or how flat and hot they looked in the sun, how vast at night. I’d sometimes arrive in the morning to find that a new piece had appeared overnight, and I loved the tingle of excitement that gave me. Once in a while I’d get to see the painting in action—you can usually smell the fumes before you actually see the person painting. Sometimes I’d miss a piece when it was covered up, but most of the time the pleasure of getting to examine something new made up for the “loss” of what came before.
I walk back to Lyndale and start moving south again, toward Lake Street. I’m heading to see some pieces behind Cause, but as I pass by Herkimer Pub & Brewery I smile at the familiar beer-centric kitsch of the mural that graces its north-facing side.
I get to the Cause parking lot. I’m impressed by the intricate scrolling of the Deuce 7 piece, and the shiny pop of the EROS piece. I’m charmed by the ghoulish rockabilly band — once again, I haven’t noticed them before. I wonder if the woman with the broom is looking aghast in their direction, or if she’s fending off the dark clouds that surround her.
I walk back up to Lake & Lyndale and then head east. When I get to Fuji-Ya I head north and snap a shot of the scale-textured koi mural there. It has a lovely classical feel to it, but somehow the bright colors of the koi (especially the pink one) remind me of the little children’s game with the rotating fish who would snap their mouths open and shut as you tried to hook them up.
I’ve enjoyed this stroll so much. The last picture I take before heading back north toward home is of the giant flower mural that covers the back of Jungle Theater. Hibiscus and orchid, I think. How have I passed by so many times without truly registering the scale, the stark contrast of the colors in this piece? Before today if you’d asked me about the mural behind Jungle Theater I don’t think I could have described it to you, though I know I’ve walked past it countless times. I’ve never seen a play there, either. I renew a little vow I try to make to myself often: I’ll keep my eyes open, both to the art that lines the streets around me and to the opportunity for new experiences in my own back yard.
Wahida Omar holds an MFA in creative writing (fiction) from the University of Minnesota. She recently finished serving a year as a CTEP AmeriCorps Member with Intermedia Arts, where she acted as the Youth Programs assistant coordinator and as a teaching artist with the Young Writers and other after-school and summer programs. She is about to begin a second year of AmeriCorps through Public Allies Twin Cities. She will be working on the community radio project at Waite House (a Pillsbury United Communities center). She will continue on as a co-facilitator for Young Writers at Intermedia Arts. She is also the events editor for Mxdwell.com. You can find her via Twitter (twitter.com/wahidao) or Tumblr (nothingpitch.tumblr.com).