Nicollet Avenue beautifies the neighborhood one bird at a time


Nicollet Avenue just got its own artistic aviary, thanks to a new series of public sculptures and benches. The pieces, titled Birds of a Different Feather, were created by Ben Janssens and Marjorie Pitz along with mosaic artist Lori Greene. Spanning eight blocks of Nicollet Avenue South, between 32nd and 40th Streets, the effort will be celebrated this Sunday at the Kingfield Farmers Market. 

According to Mary Altman, public arts administrator for Minneapolis, most of the pieces were installed in 2016, though the piece at 40th Street was installed last fall. Lead artists Janssens and Pitz worked with the community to come up with the designs. The wings of the birds are made out of mosaics, created by Ramsey Middle School students who worked with Greene. Meanwhile, the sculptures themselves were fabricated at community workshops at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King recreation center. 

When planning the project, there was a lot of input from the surrounding community. “One of the things we heard strongly from the neighborhood was that they wanted something that would run for a number of blocks, and would touch on Nicollet in many places,” says Altman. “We heard that they wanted larger gateway elements as well as seeding — or places for gathering.” 

Having a “gateway” element means that the art can not only be enjoyed up close, but by those in cars, in buses, and on bikes passing by. These larger elements create a theme as people are making their way along the street. 

Now that the sculpture project is complete, Altman says the city is moving on to the next project. Earlier this week, they held a community meeting about a public-art effort for the new 40th Street pedestrian bridge. The scary, cage-like bridge is coming down, and something prettier and more inviting will be making its way across 35W soon. The railing design is being created by local artist Seitu Jones, with funding by the city’s Art in Public Places art program.

The celebration for Birds of a Different Feather kicks off at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday at the Kingfield Farmers Market (4310 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis). Chicks on Sticks will parade to Ellwood Audio at 39th and Nicollet. Then there will be performances, art activities, and refreshments.