Walldogs on Nicollet: Help paint 10 murals in 4 days

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It may sound like an impossible task, but it will indeed happen: This week, along Nicollet Avenue in the Kingfield neighborhood, ten murals will be painted on the outside of various buildings in three days. Mark Hinds, Executive Director of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association has spent the past 18 months helping to coordinate the event.

City Pages: Ten murals in 3 days sounds pretty intense. Where did you get the idea?

Mark Hinds: Well, it started about 18 months ago when Sarah Linnes–Robinson, my Kingfield counterpart, was at an art show and met Carol Bersten, who is a local artist active with the Waldogs. They got to thinking, Wouldn’t it be great if we could do something like that in Minneapolis? Kingfield has had a really long tradition of public art and murals. As a neighborhood, they’ve done 11 murals over the last 5 years. And we’ve been working on making both Lyndale and Kingfield more art–oriented. We think this could really change how people look at this part of the avenue, and really bring people together and do something exciting.

City Pages: Tell me a little bit about Walldogs, the group coming to the city to help lead the mural creations.

Mark Hinds: It's not an official group per se, it's a loosely connected group of people who do sign painting or mural work professionally. They started coming together 10 years ago at various Walldog meets. In the '30s, '40s, and '50s, and even earlier, sign painting and this kind of art was very common. Today, this sort of art is usually produced by computers. So they started coming together to teach the craft and preserve it. There's usually only a handful of people that do this kind of work in any one place. For them, it's a chance to connect and meet people with interest in the craft. They probably do three or four events a year. They spend three to four days at a location, and leave this rich tradition behind for a community.

CP: Any particular murals of the 10 you're more excited about?

MH: There are a number that I think will be incredible. The Joseph Nicollet one on Grays' Leather will be fantastic. The MLK Park mural will be great as well; the north wall is going to have a huge mural. The B-Squad Vintage Building is going to have a mural of the Nicollet Ballpark. It's got this great 1920s look to it. The Nicollet Ballpark is arguably one of the most historically significant things in this part of town, and I think a lot of people will be interested in seeing something pay homage to that. The only thing out there right now is a sign outside of Wells Fargo where it used to be.

CP: Why use murals to beautify an area of town? Why not just do some fancy landscaping?

MH: Part of it is that this community has a strong belief in the value of public art. An appreciation for the intrinsic value of art, art that beautifies, challenges, sometimes makes people think. Public art and murals bring a different kind of aesthetic feel to a community; it makes people think about that area differently. Sure, you can find nice landscaped areas, but they don't promote critical thinking, they don't make you think about the people that live there, that work there, or the history of the area in the same way you can with public art and murals.

CP: How were locations decided?

MH: We decided early on to focus on sites on Nicollet. By focusing on Nicollet we hope to make a strong visual statement. The drive up the street will look absolutely different. So we made sure to choose buildings that were visible, as well as how often buildings in the area were tagged. We found historically that when you put up this kind of art, rarely do those walls get tagged.

CP: That’s interesting, and makes sense.

MH: You have two kinds of taggers: Those who think of themselves as urban artists, and those in gangs. Urban artists won’t tag public art because it’s disrespectful, and the taggers don’t like it because their marking won’t show.

CP: Who designs each mural?

MH: We worked with the lead artists, and talked with business and property owners for each site about ideas. We wanted to focus on local history, and did quite a bit of research. In the end we put together packets of history and info, sent them to the artists.

CP: What are you hopes for the project?

MH: We’re really trying to do something that 5–10 years down the road, we hope neighbors talk and remember. And to create a moment in history that people can actually be a part of . We hope the murals become iconic and that people think of the murals when they think of the area. We hope they say that this is place where art and community are important. We hope people look at public art and community differently with this project.

Walldogs on Nicollet kicks off this Thursday and runs through Saturday. In addition to group painting at art sites, the area will also be hosting outdoor family activities and two block parties with live music and food. To sign up or to see a complete schedule of events visit walldogs.lyndale.org or call 612.750.6180.

A mock–up of the future mural at Grey's Leather:


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The MLK Park Mural:


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The mural at B–Squad Vintage:


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