Metro Transit is turning to murals in an effort to make its bus and light-rail stations more welcoming.

The latest installation is at the I-35W and Lake Street Transit Station in south Minneapolis, a busy hub that's been plagued by graffiti and where two people were wounded in a shooting this spring. Police data also show there have been two robberies near the station this year.

Local artist Kada Goalen spent six weeks and 90 gallons of paint transforming gray and beige concrete walls and pillars into a vibrant spectacle featuring giant songbirds against a backdrop of color.

"It feels less like a bus station," said Goalen, who put the finishing touches on her mural last week. "It has a welcome feel."

Metro Transit employees collectively spent more than 500 hours in the past year removing graffiti from transit property, but taggers have largely left murals alone, said Mark Granlund, the agency's public art administrator.

He pointed to walls at the Lake Street/Midtown light-rail and bus station, which he said became "like the neighborhood bulletin board for tagging" after the murder of George Floyd. Metro Transit put up a mural about a year and a half ago in that space, and it's been tagged only once since, Granlund said. A nearby utility shack repainted two years ago hasn't been tagged, he said.

Granlund said he hopes for similar results at the Lake Street/I-35W station, where hundreds of passengers each day catch Route 21 buses and 5,000 a month get on the Orange Line, the high-frequency express route running from downtown Minneapolis to Burnsville, according to Metro Transit data.

"It makes people want to use the facility," Granlund said.

Goalen she said got an early appetite for art from her mother, who was a school art teacher and brought scraps home for her to play with. Goalen graduated with an art degree in 1999 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

A native of St. Paul, Goalen was waiting tables at Panino's in North Oaks when the owner asked her to paint a mural on the eatery's wall. "That got the ball rolling," said Goalen, who has made a career painting houses, businesses, floors and ceilings.

Her handiwork is on display in the form of vintage streetcars on the side of Whole Foods at Snelling and Selby avenues, on the walls of Unmapped Brewing in Minnetonka and on the ceiling of Children's Minnesota hospital. She's also been part of Chroma Zone, a mural festival that takes place in September in the Midway area of St. Paul.

But the south Minneapolis transit station is the "most intensive detailed" mural she has ever done, Goalen said. "There are so many moving parts."

She was paid $140,000 for her work.

Goalen joked the mural was "a giant paint by number," after she labeled every inch of the wall with the color it should be. That came in useful during a recent Open Streets event, as she directed about 50 people who jumped in to help paint one of the walls.

"This really brightens the area, and that is what I was hoping for," Goalen said. "It's now a place people enjoy coming and they have a sense of ownership. I know it's a deterrent" for graffiti.

Next year, Metro Transit plans to place a mural on the elevator towers at the Blue Line's Franklin Avenue Station to cover and help deter graffiti there, said spokeswoman Laura Baenen. The agency in August is launching a pilot to test graffiti-resistant wallpaper for bathrooms and other indoor spaces where tagging is common.

Keeping facilities free of graffiti is important to how people feel about the space, Granlund said.

"They will say, 'This is really unpleasant and I don't want to be here,'" he said. "Or they say, 'This is pretty nice.'"