Welcome back for another round of my #Pose4Htown blog series where I share the best places for photography around the beautiful city of Houston! However, I am collaborating with Kristen Gjesdahl, who is a local artist and designer in Minneapolis, to share the most popular murals in Minnesota, too. We are both mural hunters, and since we are not familiar with the popular art walls of each others' cities, we decided to share three welcome murals from our home cities! So, whether you are visiting Minneapolis or Houston, know that there is always a spot in the city that will welcome you. Let's begin up north:
1. "Greetings from Minneapolis"
Location: Key North Boutique, 515 1st Avenue Northeast, Minneapolis, MN 55413
Artist: Val Carpender
Details: I was immediately drawn to this mural because of the contrast between the dark outlines and pastel highlights. The painting style reminds me of a chalkboard, which I think brings life and character to the piece. This post card-like mural presents a picturesque view of the historic Stone Arch Bridge and Minneapolis skyline, both recognizable icons of Minnesota. The Stone Arch Bridge (23 arches to be exact!) spans the Mississippi River and is made of local granite and limestone. The bridge was built by James J. Hill in 1883 and was originally used by trains as a railroad bridge. Now serving as a walking and biking path from one side of the river to the other, it remains as a reminder of the railroad age and has been named a National Historic Engineering Landmark. The Stone Arch Bridge is about a 20 minute walk from the University of Minnesota campus (my alma mater!) so I highly recommend spending the day exploring here. From the bridge, visitors can enjoy a great view of St. Anthony Falls and read about the history on information panels. This area is also home to many restaurants and activities, such as the Stone Arch Bridge Festival, the Guthrie Theater, Segway tours, and farmer’s markets.
Tips: This mural is on the side of Key North Boutique, a specialty shop that sells women’s clothing and accessories. What makes this boutique different is that it only sells fair trade and sustainable products. However, this also means that the items are on the more expensive side (think $200 for a dress). Since this mural is in the parking lot of Key North Boutique, I recommend going when the store is closed, such as on a Sunday. Then you can park for free in this lot and snap your picture! For shopping on the more affordable side, there is another cute gift shop located on the same block called “I like you Minneapolis” (501 1st Ave NE) that sells work from local independent crafters and artists, like witty coffee mugs, pins, baby onesies, winter hats, and kitchenware. This is a great place to buy Minnesota-themed souvenirs on a college student budget. As a designer myself, I always like to support other local artists and am a huge advocate for shopping local. There is also another fun mural on the side of “I like you Minneapolis” that can make a great Instagram picture.
2. "The Times They Are A-Changin’"
Location: Intersection of North 5th Street and Hennepin Avenue
Artist: Eduardo Kobra
Details: This mural caught my eye due to the bright, vibrant patterns mixed with detailed, black and white portraiture. Sharing the same title as one of Bob Dylan’s hit songs, The Times They Are A-Changin’, the mural depicts Dylan at three stages of his life. Bob Dylan is a famous American singer-songwriter who grew up in Minnesota. He attended the University of Minnesota for one year and even lived in the apartment building right across the street from me! Bob Dylan began his music career in the 1960s and is still on tour today. His most popular song is “Like a Rolling Stone.” Dylan also used to own the Orpheum Theatre, located only a few blocks away. Even if you’re not familiar with Bob Dylan, the mural is still captivating and beautiful. It is painted in a prominent location in downtown Minneapolis near the light rail station and bus stops. Completed in 2015, it was originally meant to revitalize the downtown cultural district and encourage new artistic endeavors.
Tips: This mural is located in a pay-for-parking lot, so if you drive a car in, you’ll have to pay a fee. This lot is usually full with cars parked right against the mural wall, so taking a zoomed-out picture without cars in the composition is very difficult. But taking closer-up images still work great, especially if you stand between the second and third portraits of Bob Dylan! Since parking is a hassle, it is a lot easier to take public transportation here. Luckily, if you ride the light rail and get off at the Warehouse Hennepin Ave Station and Platform, you will be dropped off right across the street from this mural. The light rail costs $1.75 ($2.25 during rush hour) and the fare remains valid for two and a half hours, giving you plenty of time to explore downtown a little more.
3. Music Note Wall
Location: Intersection of South 10th Street and South Marquette Ave
Artist: unknown, music piece is from Gaspard de la Nuit
Details: I’ve played the violin for 12 years and used to play piano when I was little, so classical music is near and dear to my heart. This music note mural painted on the side of the former Schmitt Music headquarters is one of my favorites. The composition painted here is part of the third movement, called “Scarbo,” of Maurice Ravel’s “Gaspard de la Nuit.” This was painted in the 1970s during a period of urban renewal. Hearing public criticism regarding their blank brick wall, the advertising manager for Schmitt Music wanted to paint a piece that had “dramatic visual appeal.” This music note wall is representative of the vibrant arts and music scene in Minneapolis. There are eight performance venues within a five block strip alone (on Hennepin Ave between 10th and 5th) showcasing dancers, live music, comedians, improv, musicals, and more. No matter what weekend you come to visit Minneapolis, you can always find a show to attend!
Tips: This mural is also inside a pay-for-parking lot, although this lot is usually less full than the lot by the Bob Dylan mural. There is nearby street parking that is cheaper along 10th Street near LaSalle Avenue. I’ve been here twice, and both times I was able to find an opening against the wall, two or three empty parking spots right next to one another, so I could take a picture without cars being in the way. This mural is also near the two-story downtown Target store which has an escalator to take customers between levels as well as a separate escalator just for your shopping cart. I’ve never seen a cart escalator anywhere else! Also, the apparel departments are pretty large and since it’s Minnesota, there is no tax on clothing.
NOW DOWN SOUTH...
4. "Greetings from Houston"
Location: 3601 White Oak Dr, Houston, TX 77007
Artist: Daniel Anguilu
Details: If you ever wanted to take tourist shots and grab some dessert to eat, visit this mural on the side of a local Italian gelato shop in Houston called Gelazzi! This classic mural of Houston was created by Anguilu, who is a popular artist in the Houston area. Anguilu did an amazing job at capturing everything Houston is popular for: country western culture, NASA, and our abundance in oil and gas supply. This mural was a recreation from a 1970's postcard of Houston. I am fond of the artistic way Anguilu drew Houston culture within the letters; it really creates a colorful, eye-catching design. It's no surprise that this mural is a popular photography spot in the city.
Tips: Gelazzi is a popular dessert shop in Houston, so I recommend visiting the mural on Sundays when the gelato shop is closed or during weekday closing hours. If you are new to Houston, then I suggest visiting during early opening hours to try their gelato too. I was able to park for free along the side curb that faces the mural. When you are facing the gelato shop, there is a walkway at the left side of the shop where you can see the mural. Posing-wise, this mural is really wide and huge, so I would try to find a spot in between the letters to prevent blocking parts of the word.
5. "Houston is Inspired"
Location: 313 Travis St, Houston, TX 77002
Artist: Mario E. Figueroa, Jr. (AKA GONZOZ47)
Details: This mural has made itself known in the Houston! In fact, I would personally say that this is the most popular (and biggest!) greeting mural in our city. The mural is located at the heart of downtown, so many people (especially celebrities) have taken photos against the "Houston is Inspired" mural. The mural used to say "Houston is inspired, hip, tasty, funky, savvy," but due to critics around the city, GONZOZ47 switched it to "Houston is Inspired." Since then, you can even find replicas of this mural inside airports, malls, and stadium centers. However, visiting the original mural is a must-see for any tourist! This giant mural captures the vibrant, urban life of Houston, and it shares a great message to Houston locals as well.
Tips: It was difficult visiting this location due to downtown traffic and one-way streets. The cheapest and closest parking is the $2 metered parking spots along Market Street Park. The park is located across the mural on the left side. During Sunday morning hours, I was approached by homeless people walking around the park as well. However, they were kind enough to leave me alone with my brief prompts. Just be prepared that it's normal for Houston locals to small chat with strangers. I would suggest visiting the mural early morning (around 6am-7am) to take photos since the art wall is inside of a private parking zone and vehicles would get in the way (hence the random truck on the bottom corner of my photo). The amount of time it took for me to take photos consisted of 15 minutes. Lastly, if you wanted to take a photo with the mural, I would recommend preparing yourself for jumping shots!
6. "Urban Rhythm Houston Texas"
Location: 2011 Leeland Houston, TX 77003
Artist: Mario E. Figueroa, Jr. (AKA GONZOZ47)
Details: Although this mural is one of the smaller, less popular murals in Houston, I find GONZOZ47's work quite captivating. I love how the hippy, color scheme fuses with the urban style font. I can even spot tiny drawings within the mural, such as the infant inside the "T" in rhythm and a side profile of a person inside the "N" in urban. My interpretation of “urban rhythm” is the people of Houston creating the pulse of the city. Since this mural is most recent in comparison of the other two murals, it is definitely worth visiting in person.
Tips: The mural was showcased at the HUE Festival a few years ago, which is a local festival that showcases graffiti art and murals in Houston. So, there was other artwork drawn beside the "Urban Rhythm Houston Texas" mural. I really felt like I was walking around an outside art gallery! The location was quiet when I visited, and there were a few other photographers taking photos of murals as well. I enjoyed how the area was a lot more secluded in comparison to the other two locations, and I enjoyed walking past the other murals, too. Just keep in mind that the location farther away from downtown, so I would not recommend going there late at night. However, there was plenty of free parking around the area, and I ended up finding a parking spot right in front of the mural. If you ever wanted to take unique tourists photos in Houston, this mural is the perfect one to visit.
Hope you enjoyed reading all about these murals! Also, if you want to get to know more about Kristen, please check her site: http://www.kristengjesdahl.wordpress.com/portfolio for her artwork! As always, if you end up taking a photo for any of these murals, tag me (@ressamazing), hashtag #pose4htown, and feel free to leave a comment below about what I should showcase next! Until next time- Ressa