Artist Randy Walker has created an iconic public art piece as a welcoming entry point into the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District at the new East Side Storage and Maintenance Facility in the Holland neighborhood. The facility at the corner of University and 26th Avenues is a multi-purpose municipal operations campus for city vehicles, equipment, storage, maintenance and offices. While many of the city’s fleet of garbage trucks and garbage bins are in the building, no trash is collected or stored in the building.
I first met Randy almost twenty years ago, at his then studio in the NKB (2001 – 2009). His works, made of string and found objects, stood out to me as very thoughtful, able to transform regular objects into mesmerizing pieces of art. Since then, Walker has made an amazing career of public art throughout Minnesota, all over the country and here in Minneapolis. His Bracket Park sculpture Return Journey is a piece of public art that draws all ages. He “re-imagined the rocket by elevating it into the sky and anchoring it to the earth . . . the cables give it an apparent motion through space while simultaneously tethering it to its original site.”
While his studio is no longer in Northeast, this new project, Collection Point, has brought him back to the neighborhood. Randy talked about how he studied and borrowed from the environment to create the piece. A maintenance facility that works with garbage was not an immediate inspirational launching pad, but he started to realize that garbage trucks and the workers are one of the regular touch points residents have with the city and its staff. Even his regular trips to his own garbage bin became inspiring—the repetitiveness of opening and closing the bin had a pop culture connection, the arc of the hinged lid started to intrigue him. Eventually Randy’s genius led him to re-appropriate 96 of the lids into cast concrete forms at 180 pounds each; the finished piece showcases the multiples of lids opening up as if reaching to the sky. A structure 30 feet tall and 18 feet in diameter with a bracket ladder system will hold the lids. American Art Stone in New Ulm created the mold and produced the pieces; the whole sculpture weighs 20,000 lbs.
Throughout the course of the project, working with the artwork steering committee and the city arts administrator, Randy engaged with community members in outreach sessions at local businesses, community centers and schools. An activity was designed to solicit comments concerning the city in general, and Northeast in particular; a diverse group of participants responded both in drawings and words about what is meaningful to life here. Collection Point will include a gallery (or collection) of selected responses, which were reproduced graphically and transferred to precast panels.
A gateway to the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District, this public art piece also serves as a nod to the workers and residents of this historically working class neighborhood. A new working facility and a modern artwork stand side-by-side in welcoming people to the center of Northeast.