University graduate Liv Novotny paints the town

Novotny has made a career out of street art

Liv Novotny paints a mural on the side of their garage in Minneapolis on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Mrunal Zambre

Liv Novotny paints a mural on the side of their garage in Minneapolis on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Norah Kleven

What started as late night and sometimes illegal street art has unfolded into an entire career for University of Minnesota graduate Liv Novotny. 

Since graduating last fall, Novotny has spent their time working freelance and contracted painting gigs with GoodSpace Murals around the Twin Cities.  

“There was never a time that they were not interested in art,” recalled Novotny’s mother, Amy Novotny. 

As a mother, Novotny said she has watched Liv grow from painting artwork for themself to creating art for a greater purpose. 

“Now so much of what they do supports the community and causes they believe in,” said Novotny’s mother. 

“I’ve been painting my whole life. I’ve always loved art,” Novotny said. 

Novotny has created between 20 and 30 murals across the Twin Cities in public and private spaces since moving to the area five years ago. 

At first, Novotny did much of their work for free, in an attempt to build a name for themself. Today, Novotny is able to work full-time as a muralist.

One of Novotny’s favorite murals was a 4,000-square-foot piece they did in Massachusetts. Located on the side of an apartment parking garage, the mural depicted portraits of actual people from the community, superimposed with butterflies and community activities like checkers and pops of color. 

“That was the most fun and meaningful mural I feel like I’ve ever done,” said Novotny. “I feel like we really connected with the people out there.” 

Among their favorite works in the Twin Cities is a storm drain mural that was commissioned for St. Paul’s WaterFest. The art piece depicted scenes of activity at the nearby Lake Phalen, such as dragon boat races, fishing and biking. 

Novotny’s favorite scenes to depict are the ones that seem otherworldly. Scenes that are whimsical, dystopian and abstract are their preferred style. 

It was in a University printmaking studio that Novotny made one of their most loyal friends, Alec Lossiah. 

The pair spent two semesters and many late nights printmaking before graduating from the University. 

“If I had to describe Liv in three words, it would be ambitious, energetic and friendly,” Lossiah said. “As an artist, I see Liv is eager to try new things.”

Novotny maintains that public art is important not only for the color it brings to the community, but for more profound reasons. 

“It gives power to people that may not normally have it,” they said. “They’re not the ones that own buildings or businesses. They don’t work in politics and create the city. So it kind of gives [the community] ownership over public space.”

Before Novotny was commissioned by cities and organizations to create art, their brother Nate recalled them painting. Nate said his favorite work of Novotny’s is the portrait of their past family dog, Dixie. 

As children, Nate said that he and Novotny would enter their artwork in the Washington County Fair and recalled Liv receiving multiple blue ribbons for their work. As a teen, they even received a purple ribbon, which qualified them for the Minnesota State Fair. 

“I think that everyone deserves to just look at a beautiful city and be surrounded by art and things that are inspiring [and] colorful,” Novotny said. “Bringing that into spaces can really just change people’s mindsets, outlooks on life and how they’re going about it.”