NE sculpture tour // Bringing the art outdoors

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August 15, 2011
By: Michelle Bruch
Michelle Bruch
Until recently, most of Northeast’s artwork was hidden away in hundreds of studios.

But this summer, an artist and a couple of building owners have started bringing more artwork outside as part of a permanent sculpture tour through Northeast. Along 13th Avenue, you can find a Japanese-style vessel outside Anchor Fish & Chips, a giant arrow pointing to the sky outside Shuga Records, and a jumble of boulders and rock art that comprise an outdoor studio near the riverfront.

Anchor co-owner Jenny Crouser said she loves the sculpture out her front door at 302 13th Ave. NE. She was worried that people would use the art as an ashtray, but that hasn’t happened.

“I am hoping it’s here forever,” she said.

The curators hope the public art will help Northeast shine as an arts district.

“Something is going on here 12 months of the year, not just one weekend a year,” said John Kremer, an owner of the California and Casket Arts buildings. He is curating the work along with co-owner Jennifer Young and sculptor Andrew MacGuffie.

On the first Thursday of every month, restaurants are taking turns hosting mini art openings for the new sculpture on their properties. Sip Coffeebar will host an artist’s night on Sept. 1.

MacGuffie said he’d like to add more restaurants to the tour as the year goes on.

“We want to make the arts corridor a little bit more meaningful,” he said.

Here are the stories behind the sculpture tour stops

California building, 2205 California St. NE

Jackalopes, by Amy Toscani

Toscani originally built this as a “roadside attraction” for an art show in the front yard of Northeast artist Doug Padilla. She can’t remember exactly what inspired her to create the rabbit-like Jackalopes — she just wanted a couple of figures to hold up a sign that read “No place like this.” She originally installed motors that caused the animals’ arms to wave, but decided that was a little too crude for her Northeast roadside attraction.

Franconia Sculpture Park at Casket Arts, 681 17th Ave. NE

Prosthetic Buck, by Amy Toscani

About a year ago, Toscani started crafting an enormous pair of antlers out of two-by-fours. The anchors meet a body of chrome steelwork and they’re anchored in asphalt. Antlers have been a common theme in her recent work, she said.

“Everything I touch, it turns to antlers,” she said.


Bon Chance, by Andrew MacGuffie

“It’s this idea that as you try to manage your career and things like that, what does it take to be lucky?” MacGuffie said.

The huge numbers on the piece are reminiscent of the lucky numbers in fortune cookies.

Feel free to climb inside the fabricated steel that MacGuffie cut and bent into a huge tunnel by hand.

MacGuffie has artwork related to the theme of luck and fortune all over town — he also has a “Luck” sign up at the Van Buren building, and a “Happiness” marquee at the Sip Coffeebar, noted below.



1963 Black Walnut, by Aaron Dysart

Dysart found this tree for free — it was chopped down in St. Paul because a family wanted to prevent their kids from choking on the nuts.

Dysart is in the process of repainting the wood. The work previously sat in a field at the Franconia Sculpture Park in Schafer, Minn., and the weather has taken a toll on the old paint job.



Tekhen Monolith, by Peyton

A crew of guys spray-painted the steel when the original version was created for the Franconia Sculpture Park. YouTube videos documented its creation.



Northrup King building, 1500 Jackson St. NE

Northrup King Sculpture Garden, a collaboration between Magnolia Landscaping and 3Twelve Studio

The brand new park features boulder seats and a bench made from a beam that was in Downtown’s Security Warehouse Lofts. The material in the retaining wall once covered the floor of the old Northrup King seed company. The creators might add a pad for sculpture next year.



Modern Café, 337 13th Ave. NE

The Visitors, Mary Johnson

The two figures standing at the front door to the Modern Café were inspired by Johnson’s grandmothers, both of whom were farm women. The textures were patterned after rugs on the farm, and the boots are the style of the grandmothers’ work boots. The figures are two in a series of “Visitor” pieces.

“All of the visitors are alternate neighbors,” Johnson said. “I always like it when [my work] is out somewhere. I consider that it has a life of its own.”


Anchor Fish & Chips, 302 13th Ave. NE

Sacred Nature/Sacred Culture II, by Wayne Potratz

The vessel stems from the artist’s study of Japanese clay-molding techniques. The turtle and canoeist details were inspired by his trips to the Boundary Waters and Quetico.

“I have enjoyed seeing the work in a public space in front of the restaurant,” Potratz said. “The vessel makes a nice reference to a cooking pot, and the fish and chips menu relates nicely to the water theme.”


Shuga Records, 165 13th Ave. NE

UP, by Ben Janssens

You’ve probably seen Janssen’s work before without knowing it — he runs a sign-making shop in Northeast, and he built the signs at venues like Bulldog Northeast and Tom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen.

“This is a free exploration out of sign-making techniques,” Janssens said.



Sip Coffeebar, 34 13th Ave. NE

Happiness, by Andrew MacGuffie

“What does it take to make us content — do we ever find happiness?” MacGuffie asked. The falling “S” at the end of this marquee makes it an open-ended question.

Bench, by Bridget Beck

Beck wants birds to fly into the birdhouses at the top of the bench, and she wants Sip patrons to sit here with their coffee.

“It’s the idea that your memory of having a cup of coffee that would otherwise be bland could be a little more meaningful,” she said.

Beck uses lots of color to tap into the imagination and liven up the street.

“People have so much going on, it’s hard to get to that creative place in our everyday lives,” she said.


Open field near Grain Belt Studios, 77 13th Ave. NE

Works in Progress, Zoran Mojsilov

This field has served as Mojsilav’s outdoor studio for the past 16 years. At the moment, visitors will find heavy machinery, giant stones hooked up to a huge pulley system, and a handful of finished pieces.

“I do cause some curiosity, for sure,” Mojsilov said. “I spend six months making something, and they want to know [what it is] in 30 seconds. … It’s nothing to figure out. You like it or you don’t like it.”