Home Is Where the Art Is

Artists and city planners are shopping for a new home for a north-side landmark

There are no estimates yet of how much it will cost to move the mural, Eberhart says, nor any plan for financing the relocation. A small piece of city-owned land where Dunwoody Boulevard intersects with the off-ramp from Interstate 394, just north of the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, is widely considered the most promising new home for the piece. "If it went there it could be an extension of the sculpture garden and it would also remain a gateway to the near north side that would be very visible from downtown," she explains.

Unfortunately, the spot is a former wetland with soggy and unstable soil. If the huge concrete structure has to be placed on pilings to keep it from sinking into marshy ground, costs could rise dramatically. Also, if the Dunwoody site is ultimately chosen, the mural most likely would have to be stored somewhere for a couple of years while other parts of the redevelopment, including a boulevard linking downtown to the new community, are built.

Artist Roderic Southall, who was involved with the creation of the mural and the meetings about its future, fears that the giant painting could be damaged in the process. "It could deteriorate rapidly in storage," he says. "Moisture and heat could be problems. It's just paint on concrete and it won't hold up well." Worse still, he says, as years go by it could wind up lost and forgotten. "What if people who have helped us aren't around anymore when it comes time to take it out again?" he asks. "[City council president] Jackie Cherryhomes has really been our angel on this project. She respects the wall as a piece of art and she believes it should stay in the community. Someone else might not feel that way."

Roderic Southall worries that if the mural at Highway 55 and Lyndale Avenue North goes into storage it may be forgotten
Tony Nelson
Roderic Southall worries that if the mural at Highway 55 and Lyndale Avenue North goes into storage it may be forgotten

And even with a strong commitment, finding the money won't be easy, says Jack Becker, artistic director of the St. Paul-based nonprofit consulting organization Forecast Public Artworks. Unlike such cities as Seattle and Phoenix, Minneapolis doesn't make developers include public art in construction projects that are paid for with tax dollars. In 1988 the Minnesota Legislature created the "Percent for Art Program," which encourages government agencies to dedicate one percent of construction budgets to public art, Becker explains. "But since the requirement is optional, money usually gets used up in the development and there's nothing left over for art."

Becker, whose organization has helped find funding for many public art installations, including Wing Young Huie's Lake Street USA project, did a report for the city on opportunities for public art in the Hollman redevelopment about a year ago. Some of the ideas included sculptures, an amphitheater, and ways in which the large amounts of clay in the soil in that area could be used to create pieces near the sculpture garden. He says he hasn't heard anything from the city in recent months, but he remains hopeful that funding will be found for some of the suggestions.

Jones is one of many artists who have been consulted about adding other works of public art to the new community. Even if money becomes available, Jones wonders, who would the art be for and would they appreciate and care for it?

"Right now I just want the mural to find a new home where people welcome it," he says. "I wonder whether people will take care of it. Everyone was worried that it would be vandalized when we first put it in. But we knew it wouldn't because people saw it as a part of them. It was theirs. They wanted to protect it."

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