Q&A: Adam Turman captures the iconography of the Twin Cities

Adam Turman is a local artist, muralist and printmaker, making him a Minneapolitan Renaissance man.

Local artist, muralist and printmaker Adam Turman installed two murals in Coffman Union. He is giving a talk about his murals on Feb. 9 at Coffman.

Image by Easton Green

Local artist, muralist and printmaker Adam Turman installed two murals in Coffman Union. He is giving a talk about his murals on Feb. 9 at Coffman.

by Maddy Folstein

Walk into Coffman Union and you’ll see the two campuses of the University of Minnesota captured with a bold maroon and gold flair on the wall. Look closer, and you’ll find the tulips of the Northrop Plaza and the falling leaves of fall semester.

Adam Turman, a graduate of the University’s graphic design program, installed the murals as a tribute to his years at the University, and he’ll be speaking at Coffman on Friday about the mural installation process and his career as a local artist. A&E sat down with Turman to talk about local landmarks, murals and “Indiana Jones” posters.

What kinds of skills did you pick up in your time at the University that you’re still using in your work today?

I learned a lot of skills in all of the typical design programs … But more importantly, it was how to get along with other people, how to deal with critique, and how to communicate with other students and other faculty in order to get your point across. 

Your work is pretty recognizable and visible across the Twin Cities. How did you develop your style?

I like hangability, so I like to be able to sell my work and have it be enjoyed by other people … When I really first started doing all this work, the three pieces that stood out to me were Gold Mill Flour, Grain Belt Beer Sign and Pillsbury … Now, I’ve been doing a lot [about] the tone of the city and the tone of Minnesota itself. 

How would you describe the tone of Minnesota?

We’re super proud, and we’re nice … We love where we live, and we don’t live for the fun of it and the winter … It’s ridiculous, but we live here because we give a shit and we care. 

What kinds of artists and styles do you look toward for inspiration?

I really like really old graphic styles typically … I [also] love Drew Struzan … He makes a lot of work that is movie poster work. He made all the original “Star Wars” posters [and] “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” 

You installed two murals into Coffman Union. Can you tell me about that project?

[On one side,] we really worked with a lot of the imagery that you think of when you’re walking through the mall … Then, on the other side, we have the bulls for St. Paul, we have the water tower, and also the Transitway … We’re kind of showing the breadth of what the U has to offer, the icons of it, the seasonal effect, to a degree and kind of what I grew up with.

 What do you find rewarding about working on murals?

Murals for me are one of the most selfless projects that a client can hire me to do … You’re letting me paint a wall where many people are going to get to enjoy it … The one at Butcher and the Boar … is on 12th and Hennepin… [and] people get to see it every day. A lot of people come over to me and are just like, ‘I get to see your mural every day and I love it.’ It feels really good.

Do you think the kind of work you do about the state of Minnesota could be replicated in other states or cities?

Yes, but … the artist has to be passionate about that state and know it inside and out. That’s one reason why I haven’t gone too far into other states to do this type of work … I really want to know the area that I depict.

Is there anything that you’d like to capture or depict in your work in the future? 

I would love to do some artwork … that’s maybe not based on a static building but brings the energy of that out a little bit more, brings a dynamic feel to it and brings the light out a little bit more. What that entails, I’m still trying to figure out.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Turman is a former Minnesota Daily illustrator.