Late this last May, artist Maeve Doyle got a call from her longtime friend Nick Galli, who, with his partner Evan Doyle (Maeve’s brother) had just bought an up/down duplex in the Windom Park neighborhood. He wanted her to create a mural that would cover the whole south side of the building, one that would celebrate Northeast Minneapolis. Doyle said, “I jumped at the opportunity.”
Galli said he loved the classic red brick exterior of the 1909 building, but thought the old cement work on the building’s rear was an eyesore. “Evan and I both love Minneapolis and the Northeast neighborhoods, and we thought it would be great to fill this wall with an homage to the community for our neighbors and passersby to enjoy as well.” The partners commissioned Doyle to come up with, as she put it, “My artistic representation of the Northeast neighborhood vibe, with iconic Minnesota and Minneapolis features.” Doyle is not a Northeast native (she grew up in South Dakota) but said she spent two weeks researching the area, submitting drafts, and collaborating with Galli on the final design.
Doyle said the project was challenging in part because the area to be painted was covered with thick “horizontal lace” stucco. She spent a week skim-coating the surface, using 1700 pounds of new stucco to get a smooth, paintable base. This was followed by two coats of primer and a base color coat. After searching for colors and painting mockups, she settled on seven colors that worked for her. “It was important to me that the colors would look good in all four seasons.”
Once the painting surface was finished, Doyle set up scaffolding and projected the paper design in sections onto the wall. She then traced the outlines in paint, climbing up and down ladders to view the work and make sure everything was balanced and straight. She said that, since there was no shade on that side of the building, “a large portion of the painting took place at night using a headlamp due to the 90-degree days.” She said that she works in a large scale, and this work is her largest; the mural covers 640 square feet. The six-week effort was completed around September 10.
Doyle said the concept of the mural was, “to show where we came from as a city, juxtaposed with where we are.” She included images of gears, a saw blade, and a barrel of flour to represent the lumber and milling industries of the 19th century, as well as glassware, silverware, hops and coffee mugs for the local bars, restaurants, breweries and coffee shops of 21st-century Northeast, noting, “Coffee shops… have honestly been the lifeblood of this project, keeping me highly caffeinated as I was scaling the side of the building in the middle of the night.” She added that the 15-hour days spent on the upper scaffolding cured her of her long-time fear of heights.
The number 13, for Northeast’s 13 neighborhoods, appears, along with morel mushrooms, a loon, walleye, lady slipper flowers, and a large red pine. The mural wraps around to part of the east side; just below the roofline, Doyle has painted her twitter handle (@maevefrancess) and below that, the phrase “En avant” (French for “Forward”), taken from the Minnesota state seal. Doyle said, “The most important part that I want people to notice would be the different-colored figures over the rear door and the group of people protesting/coming together for a cause in the top left corner. Northeast is known for its diversity, and it wouldn’t be a true representation of Minneapolis today without highlighting how important it is that we all continue to come together as a community and fight for the fair and equal treatment of our neighbors and friends, because Black lives matter and to truly move as a city, change needs to happen.”
The owners’ response was, in Galli’s words, “Ecstatic! The work …speaks for itself. From the inception of the design to completing the project Maeve has blown us away with her creativity, work ethic, and efficiency. We love how the geometric blues and greens compliment the deep red brick to provide this historic building with even more character. Every time we look at it, we’re able to find a new hidden theme within the collage to remind us of a different aspect of Minneapolis culture.”
Doyle said she feels “lucky” to live in Northeast through the duration of the project and loves the area. She noted that the community has supported her work, “from shouting their praises while I’m painting on the second-story scaffolding or sharing produce from their gardens when they see me outside. I am grateful to have felt so welcomed.”
Below: Artist with her finished mural; mural from southeast; Doyle with design; artist signature; Twitter handle. (Photos by Mark Peterson)