Museums are still shut down, but luckily the Twin Cities area is home to many public artworks. We tracked down some outdoor art treasures that you can check out safely — some visible from the street or a car, others located in parks.
Social Justice Billboard Project
Three billboards positioned high above the corner of 38th and Chicago, where George Floyd was killed, spotlight work by artists of color. New York-based Naima Green's "& full of dreams too" captures a path through a lush, green, tropical garden. "To All My Relations (Metakuye Oyasin)," by Ivan Watkins of Los Angeles, portrays a man with dreads and a feathered headdress sitting in a Minneapolis landscape of the Stone Arch Bridge, Mississippi River and downtown skyline. California-based artist Jessica Wimbley's "Masking; Testament" zooms in on the face of a Black person wearing a mask with images of BLM signs and visions from last summer's protests. NE Sculpture Gallery Factory launched the billboard project in July and will keep it up through at least mid-January.
The genius of George Morrison
In the 1970s and '80s, Ojibwe modernist George Morrison made wood collages, or what he referred to as "paintings in wood." Today, his public artworks are visible throughout the Twin Cities. One decorates the exterior of the Minneapolis American Indian Center at 1530 E. Franklin Av. He also did a work in granite for the Nicollet Mall — you can see "Tableau: A Native American Mosaic," filled with 200 squiggly pieces that dreamily fit together, near 12th Street.
Aaron Dysart's and Amanda Lovelee's sculpture "Comforting Climate," located in Dickerman Park by the St. Paul YMCA at 1761 W. University Av., is made up of three glowing rocks that respond to the temperature. To create these treasures, the artists cast glacial boulders in translucent fiberglass — a nod to the environment before urbanization. On winter nights, the rocks glow in warm colors, like a glassy purple; during warmer months, they glow cool.
Bee the future
The "Bee Real Bee Everywhere" project in St. Paul includes three sculptural "Sky Rises" for pollinators that look like they've come from a futuristic bee world version of "The Jetsons." Created by Christine Baeumler, Amanda Lovelee and Julie Reneé Benda, the pollinators are installed along public parkways in the Como and Phalen neighborhoods. Beyond looking cool, they serve as homes for native nesting bees (not to be confused with honeybees). Exact Google Map locations are available at publicartstpaul.org/project/bee-real-bee-everywhere.
A tour of Twin Cities outdoor artworks would not be complete without a tribute to Prince. Esther Osayande's just-over-15-foot-tall purple raindrop towers over passersby at Farview Park in north Minneapolis (at the corner of Lyndale and 26th avenues N.). The sculpture has an opening in the middle so people can sit inside it, feeling the purple rain from deep within.
Bullying is the worst. To raise awareness, Christopheraaron Deanes worked with fifth-graders at Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary School in north Minneapolis on "The Big Book Project," located on the 26th Avenue Bikeway just three blocks west of the purple raindrop. Aimed at benefiting communities of color, the sculpture is a large-scale silver book held up by bronze hands; on the other side, yellow-painted pages share an illustrated version of the story.
Egyptian artist Salah Hammad's abstract sculpture "Family Hug," installed long before the pandemic made hugging unsafe, is located at the intersection of Mississippi River Boulevard and Woodlawn Avenue in St. Paul. Carved out of limestone, the familial moment is composed of three geometric shapes — a hook-like shape on its side, a torso-like piece standing upright, and a circular tree-stump-like object standing upright on the ground. One day we will embrace again.
Christopher Harrison's "Aqurbane," a 15-foot arch located at the northern gateway to Theodore Wirth Regional Park, Minneapolis' largest park, offers a dazzling entrance into this nature haven. Made of Corten steel, the archway is decorated with 65 patinated bronze and steel forms that reflect the natural and urban worlds. Squiggles, a sideways streetlight, a microorganism, a blob, a strange plant, circles on top of circles and more oddities enchant visitors.
At Silverwood Park in St. Anthony, just north of Minneapolis, 16 outdoor sculptures await. Minneapolis artist Asia Ward's "Wetland Grass," a big, solar-powered sculpture composed of green rods and purple-tinted bulbs, was inspired by the wetlands of Silver Lake, on the south side of the park at Silver Lake Road and County Road E. "Bio Scenic Travel Machine," a big silver orb by Sara Hanson, looks like an alien spaceship; peer inside for a kaleidoscopic view of the park's ecology and environment. Canadian-born artist Shyrina Rose's sculpture "Gentle Play," a big hunk of tree and branches, becomes its own playground by adding swings, rock-climbing pegs, and even a slide. The full list of sculptures is available at gis.threeriversparks.org.
@AliciaEler • 612-673-4437