Minneapolis condemns Powderhorn Park house that homeowner turned into a political art display

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 27, 2013 - 5:53 AM

With eviction looming, homeowner is selling house and dismantling controversial yard sculptures.

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Andrew Moore sifted through pieces of art that he has assembled, mostly from junk, in his Minneapolis yard. After years of clashes with city officials, Moore’s property has been condemned. He said the sculptures would not be reassembled at another location: “I’m pretty sure not too many art galleries would want it.”

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

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A Powderhorn Park lawn artist who has long clashed with City Hall will get tossed out of his home on Thursday as city officials move to condemn his property and end his practice of using his front yard as an open-air gallery for controversial sculptures.

A provocative, dark and somewhat jumbled creation, the artwork has existed in one form or another for at least 15 years at Andrew Moore’s Bloomington Avenue S. home. For what Moore calls “reality art,” he uses random bits of garbage to protest issues such as gentrification, racism and poverty.

“I really would hate to throw it away,” Moore said as he looked over the yard last week.

He lost his home to condemnation on Monday after falling behind on utility bills. Moore made an 11th-hour deal with the We Buy Ugly Houses rehab outfit, and plans to sell the property before he’s kicked out on Thursday. Most of the sale proceeds will go toward fees owed to City Hall for code violations. Moore said he’ll walk away with $5,000.

The yard art has become a Powderhorn Park institution, said area resident Tony Balluff, who doesn’t know Moore personally.

“It’s right in the middle between art and protest,” he said. Some people embrace it, but others tolerate it out of respect for Moore’s freedom of speech, Balluff said.

“It’s a huge installation, and it sometimes can be overwhelming,” he said.

Moore traced the roots of his yard art to being fired from the Re-Use Center, a salvaged-goods organization that once had an outlet at the Hiawatha-Lake mall. He protested his firing with signs outside the Re-Use Center’s front door and eventually moved the “reality art” to his house, where it took on other subjects.

The sculptures changed with the times as Moore added new pieces and took away others. His latest collection includes a section about Trayvon Martin, along with a baby doll with a toy gun, a casket, a torn U.S. flag and a surveillance camera trained on a globe.

Handwritten signs protest gentrification, unemployment and the racial makeup of the prison population.

“Sometimes the art was tough to look at, and people didn’t like it because it was very abruptly honest,” said neighbor Michael Bowen. “I think [Moore] was always supporting people that have a hard time in society. He represented some of the best of Powderhorn.”

Some of Moore’s work offended people, like the baby doll that he left hanging in a noose. Moore said it represented something truthful about the future kids face today.

“That’s been his right to do that. As much as putting Santa Claus and a reindeer in the front yard with elves, he can put some artwork in the front yard. I think Powderhorn’s going to miss him,” said Jeff Noyed, a social worker with the Jubilee Community Church, a block away from Moore’s house.

Moore said he has no plans to reinstall his sculptures elsewhere. The 55-year-old father doesn’t know where he’s going to live next, and has spent the past weeks making preparations for his two teenagers who live with him.

“I’m pretty sure not too many art galleries would want it,” said Moore, looking over his yard.

He has long sparred with city officials over the maintenance of the property in the 3200 block of Bloomington Avenue S. He said he is convinced that much of the friction rests with city officials’ unhappiness with the art display.

A couple of years ago, Moore lost his landlord license for failing to fix code issues. This summer, after months of not paying electric and water bills, he saw the utilities get shut off on his 124-year-old duplex. Moore said that last spring he lost county assistance that he once used to pay those bills. He thinks the assistance was shut off because of the art.

A city official confirmed that Moore’s house would be condemned due to the water being shut off.

Owning up to a criminal past, including drug offenses and prison time, Moore said the yard sculptures were something he could use to channel his anger.

“I’ve been blessed,” he said. “Through years of being in prison and believing in the Lord upstairs, and believing in my love for my children, that’s changed. It’s made me a better person.”

 

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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  • Almost all of Andrew Moore’s makeshift yard art had a pointed political edge, touching on issues such as racism, gentrification, poverty and unemployment.

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