Painting the town

Artists from throughout the nation will converge on Nicollet Avenue South next summer to ply their trade on the walls of businesses in Lyndale and Kingfield.

The Walldogs on Nicollet project, organized by the Lyndale Neighborhood Association (LNA) and Kingfield Neighborhood Association (KFNA), will culminate in the painting of six to 10 murals on businesses along Nicollet. The project is meant to beautify the corridor, build community and prevent graffiti.

“We’re hoping for a transformation,” said KFNA executive director Sarah Linnes-Robinson.

To give the community a taste of what’s to come, Minneapolis artist Corole Bersin and a crew of volunteers will paint a demonstration mural on the south side of the La Princesa building at 3345 Nicollet and another on the LNA office at 3537 Nicollet Sept. 13–16.

Bersin is a longtime mural artist and a regular participant in Walldog meets. Many years ago, traveling sign painters were dubbed Walldogs, she said. Mural painters keep the name alive today by organizing Walldog meets at which numerous murals are painted.

Most meets take place in rural areas, making the Minneapolis event planned for July 23–27 of 2008 an unusual one, Bersin said.  

Linnes-Robinson said the idea came from a conversation with Bersin last November. LNA executive director Mark Hinds joined the collaboration soon afterward. Hinds said he and Linnes-Robinson have worked for years to incorporate more public art into the community, so he didn’t hesitate to get Lyndale involved.

Because the event is about more than painting walls, Hinds and Robinson have developed a set of criteria for businesses interested in a mural including location, business type and graffiti abundance. The La Pricesa building was chosen for the September mural largely because it’s “the most tagged piece of real estate on Nicollet south of Lake,” Hinds said.

The mural planned for the building will offer a vision into the past with a rendering of the Fisher Grocery store that was originally on the site. The LNA office will receive a Walldogs logo that will be covered with a new mural next summer. The idea is to build excitement for the project until then, Hinds said.   

No businesses have been selected for the July event yet. Linnes-Robinson said she would like the murals to create a stronger community feel along Nicollet, which is home to a diverse group of businesses.  

 “We hope these different murals unite all the different businesses,” she said.

Dennis Curran, owner of Curran’s Family Restaurant at 4201 Nicollet, said he’s looking forward to the event and wouldn’t mind another mural on his property. A mural painted on one of his walls has prevented graffiti there, he said, though taggers still graffiti other spots near it.

Chosen businesses will collaborate with artists to come up with mural designs. Artists interested in taking part in the Walldogs meet will be individually invited and one “lead” artist will direct the painting of each mural. Anyone else can volunteer to help, from experienced painters to those who have never picked up a brush. Bersin, who plans to participate in next summer’s meet, said she doesn’t expect a shortage of helpers.

“In Minneapolis you can spit and hit an artist,” she said.

Several fundraising events, combined with financing from LNA and KFNA, will pay for supplies, artists’ time and lodging during the meet.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]