Lunchtime Tourist

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October 13, 2003 // UPDATED 11:05 am - April 30, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

A guide to art, architecture and cultural curiosities

Mural by Ta-coumba Aiken Skyway level, Carmichael Lynch Building (800 Hennepin Ave. S.)

Most law students don't quit school to pursue the more lucrative world of fine art. Usually, it's the other way around. Ta-Coumba Aiken, however, doesn't follow the typical paths.

Growing up just north of Chicago, Aiken discovered his love for drawing early on. His father, thinking he could thwart his young son's idealistic dream of becoming an artist, cleared out their basement for what he thought would be a less-than-fulfilling "gallery" experience.

The prolific 6-year-old covered the walls and sold more than $600 worth of art. "Save it for law school," was all his father could muster. And save he did. Aiken eventually went off to Yale for pre-law but knew in his heart he still wanted to be an artist. Taking a year-long break from legal briefs, he packed up and headed West, finally ending up in classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Thirty years later, Ta-coumba Aiken is one of the Twin Cities' most visible public artists. His artworks have illuminated metro area busses, stage sets, billboards, posters and album covers -- and that's all in addition to the more than 75 murals and 300 community art projects he's completed with school children. His fine artworks are in local museums and in the private collections of Taj Mahal, James Earl Jones and Dr. Maya Angelou.

Advertising firm Carmichael Lynch commissioned the vibrant, regionally themed mural on the skyway system. Throughout the 109-foot painting is a green band that connects metro area imagery with icons representing the agency's clients. Painted on-site, this mural embodies Aiken's mission to "create art to heal the hearts and souls of people by evoking a positive spirit."

LUNCH TIP: Try one of the pizzas next door at Caf di Napoli, 816

Hennepin Ave. S.

Do you know of a lunchtime destination? Send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@

hotmail.com.