Eduardo Kobra’s gargantuan Bob Dylan mural put the international spotlight on Hennepin Avenue this year. Now, another artist is bringing his unique art to the downtown thoroughfare.
Minneapolis-based, Wisconsin-born artist Greg Gossel has begun painting a mural on the side of the 930 Hennepin Ave. building, known for its previous tenant, National Camera Exchange. American Express and partner Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine commissioned Gossel to do the work as part of a national campaign of murals supporting Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28.
The colorful, pop art-inspired mural, which will stretch about 33 feet tall and 66 feet wide once complete by Nov. 16, will depict three comic-style people, an old-school vehicle and a tongue-in-cheek lyric from Prince’s “Baby I’m a Star” (“Take a picture sweetie — I ain’t got time to waste… Baby I’m a star”).
Gossel draws inspiration from pop culture, pulp novels, romance comics, politics and 20th century icons. His work has been exhibited internationally.
“I’ve tried to capture a snapshot of the vitality and diversity of Hennepin Avenue,” he said in a statement. “Using my pop art aesthetic, it will be a symbol of empowerment for the many artists, musicians and entertainers that have shaped Hennepin Avenue throughout the decades.”
Gossel told The Journal that the reference to Prince was a nod toward the mural’s home in Minneapolis — also the musician’s birthplace — and the entertainment of the area’s theater and concert venues. The Minnesota funk music legend had also been in consideration to be immortalized in Kobra’s mural at Hennepin & 5th.
Gossel began the mural Nov. 7 by projecting the image, an original work for the campaign, and tracing an outline of its features with spray paint. He’ll then paint the mural with exterior paint like a paint-by-numbers.
The two-story host building at Hennepin & 10th was built in 1919 and has been vacant for a number of years despite high foot traffic from a bus station at the intersection and the nearby venues and large surface parking lots. It was the former home of National Camera Exchange and, before that, M.L. Novack Diamonds. The City of Minneapolis moved the street on the building’s 10th Street side years ago to make room for an expansion of the Orpheum Theatre so there’s a wider setback, which makes the building stand out even more.
Neil Friedman, the building’s property manager with Jordan Realty, said while the building is for sale, the owners have no intention of painting over the mural after Small Business Saturday so it could be up for an indeterminate amount of time.
“Hopefully this mural is the beginning of the building’s revival. It’s a great opportunity and we’re very grateful that the Hennepin Theatre Trust and American Express chose us,” Friedman said. “This particular property is prime for development in Downtown West because it sits at the entrance of the Theater District.”
The owners are asking for $400,000 for the approximately 4,500-square-foot building or nearly $650,000 with its billboard, which brings in an average of $25,000 each year. While the 930 Hennepin building is nearing the end of its first century, it’s not historically designated.
The project’s scope may be new for the building, but 930 Hennepin regularly hosts art throughout the year. The building has been a part of the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Made Here initiative since its inception, hosting installation pieces in order to draw attention from downtown’s residents, workers and art lovers.
Joan Vorderbruggen, the Trust’s Cultural Arts District coordinator who helped choose the mural’s venue, said it’s good to add a local like Gossel to the mix of artists bringing their work to Hennepin Avenue.
“As we do different projects that activate public space, I definitely want there to be a balance of people who are from here and who have that international reputation. It helps everybody,” she said.
Photos courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society, Hennepin Theatre Trust and Google Maps.