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A biking tour of Minneapolis mural scene

With spring approaching faster than Minnesota makes it seem, it’s time to pump up the bike tires and explore the streets.
Image by Ethan Fine
A mural on South Fifth Street by artist Eduardo Kobra, captured on Friday, March 25.

Looking for an art adventure? Try exploring Minneapolis’s public art scene.

While public art can feel sparse, with a prepared route, you can find murals in all corners of the city. For students in a time crunch, murals are just a couple blocks away.

From The Cedar Cultural Center to the Music Wall, this eight-stop trip around Minneapolis packs in murals of all sizes and styles while staying reasonably close to campus. I recommend biking to avoid frequent parking while keeping commute times to a minimum; however, the route can be completed on foot or by car.

Since many murals are painted anonymously, some artists couldn’t be located. All murals with a known artist have the artist in the description.

Stop 1: The Cedar Cultural Center

Meet your mates at the mural in the pavilion adjunct to The Cedar. Collaging West Bank architectural staple Riverside Plaza with the Metro Transit light rail and bordered with flags from Ethiopia, Somalia and beyond, this mural saturates your eyes with ideas. At its center, a fist morphing into the roots of a cityscape — a concise representation of Minneapolis’s resilient spirit. Artist Jordan Malcolm Hamilton works with youth groups to strengthen community relations through art. This mural was painted in collaboration with the Brian Coyle Center and Hope Community. What better place is there to start a tour of Minneapolis?

Stop 2: Parking Lot Trio

Make your way to the parking lot down the road past Palmer’s Bar. One wall of the parking lot features a giant shark, hot air balloons and an atmospheric diving suit. The other, a touching portrait of a parent helping their kid navigate crossroads. If you venture towards the back of the lot, you’ll find a mural of Minneapolis through the seasons.

Stop 3: Minnesota Varnishes Color Wall

Take your route of choice to 312 11th Ave. S for this feast of color. While not as intricate as others, this sheer wall of weather-worn color ranks among the rest for its vibrance. It's a jumble of overlapping and intersecting shapes against a grainy brick backdrop creating eye-catching simplicity.

A mural on 10th Avenue S by artist Yiqiao Wang, captured on Friday, March 25. (Ethan Fine)

Stop 4: Loon Mural

A couple doors down at 921 10th Ave. S is one of the newest installations on the list: a geometric depiction of our Minnesota state bird by artist Yiqiao Wang. From the waves of Minnesota’s lakes to the loon’s red eye, this mural emanates “land of 10,000 lakes” energy and brings a colorful abstraction to the common loon's familiar shape. In an artist statement on Periscope, Wang described the loon as holding a “hidden wisdom that something big and beautiful will happen.”

Stop 5: Positively Yours

On your way to stop six, take South Third Street, and watch out for this mural off the Chicago Avenue intersection. Flying against a sky blue background are butterflies, bees and dragonflies with positive words written on their wings. Balancing realistic insect compositions with surreal colorings complements the written constructive messaging.

Stop 6: Bob Dylan

Towering over the corner of Hennepin Avenue and South Fifth Street stands portraits of Bob Dylan at three stages of his life and the inscription, “the times they are a-changin.’” While the times are changing, Dylan’s presence throughout his home state of Minnesota has remained constant since he appeared on the music scene in the early 60s. Even before Artist Eduardo Kobra captured Dylan’s colorful yet stoic likeness, his image stood tall over the city of Minneapolis. Recommended viewing experience: standing close and marveling at the scale – it’s a challenge to view its entirety at once.

A mural on Hennepin Avenue by artist Greg Gossel, captured on Friday, March 25. (Ethan Fine)

Stop 7: Baby I’m a Star

Just past the Orpheum Theater at 930 Hennepin Ave., is another mural citing a Minnesota music icon. Artist Greg Gossel inscribed the iconic lyric “baby I’m a star” as a subtle nod to Prince.

However, Gossel didn’t want to make the piece about anyone in particular: “I felt it was a better fit to leave the characters in the piece open for interpretation … I wanted people to be able to find what they resonate with.” What's most fun for Gossel is seeing a wide gamut of people connect with his work.

Gossel said he wanted to keep the mural “simple, bold and quickly recognizable.” Whether you're riding a bus or high up in a downtown building, Gossel wanted you to catch a glimpse and “absorb the whole piece.”

Stay on the lookout for Gossel’s return to the Minneapolis mural scene this summer; he’ll be painting an indoor piece and multiple outdoor murals.

Stop 8: Music Wall

On the corner of Marquette Avenue and South 10th Street is where our tour ends. While simple in concept, color scheme and execution, early photos of Prince and more recently Lizzo’s music video for “Boys” have used this wall of sheet music as a backdrop. Get your sights in while you can – the view may soon be blocked by an office tower.

Now that you’ve landed in downtown Minneapolis, why not explore a bit more? If you're looking for a snack to end the trip, check out Cardigan Donuts in the Minneapolis City Center. Or, if you’re looking for more public art, wander around a bit and see if you can find the wind turbine blade on display (it's out there).

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