Powderhorn lawn artist back in his house after neighbors pay his water bill

Moore's house on Aug. 27, the day it was condemned. He cleared out the installation, and now is beginning to rebuild.
Moore's house on Aug. 27, the day it was condemned. He cleared out the installation, and now is beginning to rebuild.
Olivia LaVecchia

When his house was boarded on September 3, a week after it was condemned, Andrew Moore had no where to go. He packed up his front yard art installation and spent five nights sleeping in his truck in the backyard, keeping an eye out for anyone trying to break in and strip the copper.

Now though, Moore, and his yard art, have found a ninth life. On Monday, Moore peeled the wood off his windows and doors and moved back in -- at least for now. To get him out of condemnation, his neighbors on Bloomington Ave. S. paid his water bill, which Moore says was around $1,300.

"It is a big deal for us on our block to have more boarded up houses or vacant houses," explains Anna Brelje, one of Moore's neighbors who wasn't involved in paying the bill. "Andrew is a seriously respected leader on our block, and I think there's a great concern among the neighbors that I've talked to that losing him is going to have an impact on the safety and quality of life in our neighborhood."

See Also:
- Facing city condemnation, Powderhorn's political art yard enters last days

Moore isn't out of the woods. Now that the water's back on, he has a few months until the bill runs up again and he faces the same situation. His real issue is why he can't pay his utilities in the first place: His lack of income and the amount he owes the city of Minneapolis.

In 2010, a high school student was accidentally shot in Moore's house while Moore was out, the Star Tribune reported at the time. After that, Moore lost the rental license he had held since 1995, which was his main source of income. In a catch-22, fees and fines kept coming on his property, and he had no way to pay them.

That year, Moore racked up a debt of $17,868 to the city and the county, Hennepin County records show. $1,615 of it was taxes, but the rest -- $11,127 in special assessments, $3,853 in interest, and $1,271 in penalties -- came through various fines, including fees every time the city came to reinspect his house. The cycle repeated in 2011 and 2012.

After just those three years, Moore owed $32,437 to the city and the county. That's more than he owes the bank.

In Moore's view, the situation is clear. "Why aren't they willing to compromise?" Moore asks. "I know City Hall isn't going to reduce the fines. It's obvious what they're up to. They want me out. They want me out because of the art." 

Moore's neighbors, meanwhile, want to help in any way they can. "Anything the city can do to keep people in their homes, that's what we want," explains Brelje, who points to the two other vacant homes on her street, and several others around the corner. "The art is not the issue for us on the block. The art is a part of what keeps the neighborhood safe, because he's always out in the yard."

Rick Prescott has lived kitty-corner from Moore for close to 20 years, and knows that having Moore's art yard across the street lowers the value of his property. But he says that Moore's presence on the block makes him feel safer raising his two young daughters there.

In Prescott's best-case scenario, "some angel" would approach Moore and offer to buy his art. "I'm kind of hoping that somebody will read the story and say, 'He's an artist, let's give him some money,'" Prescott says.

Up until a few weeks ago, two of Moore's children lived with him, and his living room was lined with his kids' athletic ribbons and trophies. Now though, Moore's son and daughter are staying elsewhere, and the inside of the house is bare except for a futon, a couch, and a poster of one of his sons playing football.

Moore isn't focused on making his house a home again; he's still working with We Buy Ugly Houses to try to sell the place. "I would love to stay in this neighborhood," Moore says. "But unless I can get my [rental] license back, I really can't afford it."

He does, though, have plans for one last art installation. Already, he's placed a large, green-and-blue round shape on a platform in the yard.

"I figured my next piece will be my last probably, and I want it to be my most powerful," Moore says. "I know what it's going to be. It's going to be about a complacent society."

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