Community notebook :: Mural

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December 20, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
New mural on Hennepin

HENNEPIN AVENUE — The holiday season is just hitting its crescendo, but here at the Journal, we got our big Christmas gift a few months early: a brand new mural, courtesy of the brilliant young graffiti artist and maestro of urban psychedelia JAWSH.

If you’ve headed south on Hennepin Avenue in the last three months, you’ve seen it. Eight black-and-white faces, nestled within a storm of brightly hued abstraction and towering over the southwest corner of Downtown on the Journal’s office building at 1115 Hennepin Ave. S.

Each one’s a heroic figure in our land of snow and Purple Rain. How many have you been able to name?

From left to right, we’ve got Bob Dylan, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Paul Wellstone, Kirby Puckett, Amy Klobuchar, Judy Garland and Garrison Keillor.

In late fall, JAWSH took a few weeks to reproduce each from found photos, blowing them up and transferring them to our wall via pounce pattern. “I would have preferred to have painted them free hand but was restricted by time,” he said, referencing the race to beat the coming winter. Though the swirling background, he noted, is all improvised self-expression.

So who’s this JAWSH character? He’s a bit of a street art ambassador, actively folding community building into his projects. He’s an alumnus of the well-regarded Juxtaposition Arts, the North Minneapolis hip-hop arts center dedicated to youth mentorship, and still works closely with the organization. He was involved with Juxta’s work at the Chambers, where a youth-orchestrated mural crawls up the wall in the hotel’s stairwell. JAWSH also curates another Juxta project, the famed Merit Printing wall, at 117 North 2nd St., which has stood as one of the city’s most impressive displays of public art for more than 15 years.

In fact, the wall’s current incarnation features one of his creations — the “Jawsh tree,” a Little Shop of Horrors tangle of snaking, psychedelic vines.

But perhaps most impressively, JAWSH is a cancer survivor. Back in March, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Luckily, he had surgery right away and avoided radiation treatment. But he’ll undergo CT scans every four months for the next three to four years, and every six months after that.

“So I’m cleared, but I don’t think I’ll ever be fully cleared,” he said. “You start seeing things in a different light. Finding out for me made me realize that what matters in life is friends, family and being happy. And for me that is painting.”

So our mural’s “Six months cancer free” headline is no joke. Nor is its title, a no-brainer for JAWSH: “Inspire.”

— Gregory J. Scott


More opposition to NE waste facility

HOLLAND — At least four Northeast neighborhoods have now lined up in opposition to a household hazardous waste facility proposed for University & 27th Avenue.

The “no” votes came from Marshall Terrace, Windom Park, Sheridan and Holland — some of the closest neighborhoods to the site.

The city and county want to construct two buildings to collect household waste that can’t go on the curb, such as construction debris and paint.

In a statement endorsed by both Holland and Windom Park, the neighborhood boards expressed concern about the “proximity to residential property, potential safety issues, potential noise and odor issues, potential impact on property values and local businesses, potential impacts on our quality of life and our vision for our neighborhood, and the potential for negative long-term health effects of this and other industrial development in our neighborhood.”

Columbia Park, another neighborhood bordering the proposed facility, hasn’t voted on the project yet.

“The sentiment of the board was against it,” said chair Mike Melman. “Once we find out what the city proposes, we will take a vote on it.”

Although supporters of the project are becoming more vocal, the opposition is loud and organized. A group called Don’t Dump on Northeast is door-knocking, reaching out to local businesses, and strategizing ways to raise money for its new attorney. In recent weeks, group representative Marie Zellar contacted the Bloomington Police Department to discuss a similar facility in Bloomington that collects electronics and appliances.  

“People are trying to get into their facility to steal scrap,” she said. “And they don’t have houses next door. … I’m trying to assess how worried we should be about safety.”

The Sheridan neighborhood board has issued a letter of support for Don’t Dump on Northeast. The board is concerned about heavy traffic on University, according to Chair Mike Romens.

According to neighborhood meeting notes relayed by Greg Langason, board chair of Concerned Citizens of Marshall Terrace, residents questioned why the city and park board would allow a hazardous waste facility in Northeast after so much investment to designate Northeast as an arts district and create an 11-acre park along the Mississippi.

“So far I have not heard from anyone in the neighborhood in favor,” Langason said.

— Michelle Bruch


Orchestra to move into Minneapolis Convention Center

DOWNTOWN CORE — Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson has announced that his musicians will temporarily take up residence in the Minneapolis Convention Center while Orchestra Hall undergoes its $45 million renovation two years from now.

Convention Center performances will begin in the fall of 2012 and will run through the spring of 2013. Orchestra Hall will be closed during this period, with a grand re-opening scheduled for June 2013.

“We felt fortunate to discover the Auditorium at the Minneapolis Convention Center in our search for a ‘home away from home,’” Henson said in a statement.

— Gregory J. Scott


Aster Café is new home for Hootenanny

EAST BANK — The Mad Ripple Hootenanny, a roving jam session of local musicians spearheaded by writer/musician Jim Walsh (aka the Mad Ripple), has finally settled into somewhat permanent digs: the Aster Café, 125 S.E. Main St.

Beginning Dec. 2, Matty O’Reilly and Tom Peterson’s riverside venue on St. Anthony Main began hosting weekly “hoots” on Thursday nights, as part of month-long residency that may continue into 2011. The next show takes place Thursday, Dec. 23, and features Lianne Smith, Dan Israel, Lucy Michelle and Michael Morris. The hootenanny starts at 8 p.m. Cost of entry is $5.

“If all goes well, we could be there every Thursday until summer,” said Walsh.

Since re-opening last summer under new management, the Aster Café has slowly evolved into a respected, musician-focused venue, winning fans with an intimate room (it accommodates only about 80) and carefully calibrated acoustics. O’Reilly and Peterson are recreating their success with the 318 Café in Excelsior, which also generated buzz for its live shows.

— Gregory J. Scott


Preservation Alliance seeks nominations for Most Endangered Historic Places

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota is now accepting nominations for its annual list of the state’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places. The deadline is Friday, Dec. 31, and the nomination form can be found on the Alliance’s website:

The 10 Most Endangered program calls attention to historic sites and buildings that are threatened with demolition, increasing disinvestment and neglect, or which face organizational challenges and financial obstacles. Only one Downtown building appeared on last year’s list, Loring Park’s Wesley United Methodist Church at 101 E. Grant St.

For the second year in a row, one site from the Alliance’s list, chosen by popular vote at the organization’s annual gala, will receive a seed grant, which can provide critical matching funds for grants from other organizations.

The 2011 list will be announced in May during National Preservation Month.

— Gregory J. Scott


City copes with huge snow dump  

City officials called two snow emergencies following the Dec. 11 blizzard — the fifth largest in the city’s history.

More than 17 inches of snow dumped on Minneapolis during the snowstorm, prompting the rare second declaration on Dec. 13.

Public Works Director Steve Kotke said the biggest problem with the first snow emergency was getting cars off of the streets. Cars that were towed were waived towing fees because of the extreme nature of the storm. He said the city would reinstate its towing fees throughout the second round of plowing.

For more snow emergency information, go to

— Vanessa El-Hakeem


Nimbus finds home in Northeast

NORTHEAST PARK — A nomadic theater company is putting down roots this month in a Central Avenue warehouse.

Nimbus Theatre, a nearly 10-year-old theater group that typically puts on shows at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, has signed a lease to open up at 1617 Central Ave. Pending zoning approval, the board hopes to open an intimate, 70-seat jewel box theater, with risers and a lobby that might also open for other theater groups and community events.

“Theater is a collaborative art,” said Nimbus board member Josh Cragun. “It’s about having a community with the audience. ... Space can be important.”

Nimbus has spent two years researching this move. The board previously rented rehearsal space at Stinson & Broadway. It decided to open up in Northeast to give the neighborhood a new resident theater company and take advantage of affordable space.

“We would rather pay more money to the artists we’re working with than pay for a prime location Downtown,” Cragun said.

The theater group is excited about the warehouse’s 17-foot ceilings, and it has already secured $10,000 in funding for lighting equipment from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.

Nimbus will host a production in February at the warehouse, leaving the space fairly raw for the first show. The play is “The Balcony” by Jean Genet, a playwright who wrote much of his work while in prison. It’s a show that explores society’s obsession with celebrity. For more information, visit

— Michelle Bruch