Midwest Murals: A Chat With Adam Turman

If you’ve ever driven by Minneapolis’ staple The Butcher and The Boar, sipped on a Surly Furious at Surly Brewery’s old Tap Room, or bought a piece of Minneapolis memorabilia, chances are it came from Adam Turman’s imagination. A native of the North Star state, Adam talked to us about how he became an artist and how his work is now iconic throughout the city.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

I’ve lived in the Twin Cities since I was a kid. I love the Twin Cities–it’s a great place to live and make art. I got a degree in graphic design from the University of Minnesota (1999). I’ve worked in the graphic design field for two decades and officially started my professional studio practice in 2003.

I grew up in the 80s, and the style of that era definitely influences my art. The bold, graphic style of skateboard/BMX/snowboard graphics, comic books, and heavy metal album art are some of my biggest stylistic influences.

How did you first get started as an artist–more specifically as a mural artist?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, but I started doing it professionally right out of college. I made gig posters for bands that came through town, at venues like the iconic First Avenue and the Xcel Center. I’ve had the pleasure of creating gig posters from artists like AC/DC to Elton John to Bruce Springsteen. Super cool.

Networking has been key in the success of my practice. How I got my start muraling is a testimony to that. The first mural gig I got was at Creative Lighting in Saint Paul, in 2010. An artist friend of mine, Chank Diesel, learned that Creative Lighting was looking for a mural, and invited me to work with him on it. Since I’d never created a mural before, I did the mural on a volunteer basis. I was just looking to gain experience with this job. Creative Lighting was very generous to let us “test the waters” on their space.

In 2011, I got to paint a mural in the taproom of the old Surly Brewery in Brooklyn Center, which I did with another artist buddy, Josh Lemke. This project was also unpaid, but I was really excited to do it because Surly is a place that has really great exposure to a wide audience. Plus, I love Surly, and I was stoked to work with them. After the Surly gig is when things really took off. Business owners, like the team from the Butcher and the Boar, saw my mural at Surly and contracted me to do work for their buildings.

What process do you abide by?

I’m a graphic designer by training, so I like to work from a solid design direction. I like working with clients to develop a design that fits their needs, enhances their brand, and looks great.

How does living in the Midwest influence your work?

I incorporate a lot of Midwest iconography and culture into my art. When people see something that they recognize and care about in my art, they connect with the work, and with the communities that they love. It’s a lot of fun hearing people’s stories about the personal connections they have to the Midwest.

What is some of your favorite work (that you’ve created)?

The mural I just finished for the Radisson Red hotel in Minneapolis really stuck out to me. It’s a depiction of a murder of crows flying over Interstate 394. The murder of crows that lands in Minneapolis, right by the Basilica of Saint Mary and Interstate 394 is something that is distinctive to Minneapolis, but it’s not an obvious Minneapolis icon. You have to have spent a lot of time here to experience it. The brand manager for Radisson specifically requested that I paint the crows because they are something that he loves about Minneapolis, and only true locals know about.

What is your favorite season?

Summer, definitely. I love being outside–riding bikes, painting murals (not in the cold) spending time with family and friends.

Since we’re on the topic of seasons, what is your favorite fall activity?

Bike riding! I love riding my bike in any season, but it’s definitely great in the fall, when I can get out and enjoy all of the fall colors. I incorporate biking into a lot of my art, as well. The beautiful outdoors are one of the best parts of living in Minnesota, so I want to share that with other people through my art.

What is your favorite fall spice?

Do hops count as a spice? Cheers!

What is something new – or challenging – that you’re currently working on?

Right now, we’re gearing up for an exhibition at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum–Minnesota Illustrated: The Art of Adam Turman. I’m working on developing a number of new art prints for that show. A lot of my existing art depicts the Twin Cities, but for this show, I’m shifting my focus to beyond the Twin Cities. I’m drawing beloved Minnesota destinations like the Boundary Waters, and Duluth’s Split Rock Lighthouse and Lift Bridge.

Any fun or interesting stories about the work you have done?

Great timing with this question. My work has been showing up in the news lately, courtesy of some politicians. On Father’s Day, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada wore the T-shirt that I made for the Ontario-based Sleeping Giant Brewing in Thunder Bay. Fans on both sides of the border got a kick out of that.

Most recently,The New York Times just printed the article Seats of Power, a survey of the offices of Washington D.C. politicians. The article includes an interview with the White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, who is from Stillwater, MN. One of the photos shows my print, MN Months, hanging in McDonough’s office. Props to him for repping his home state in Washington!

Article from Modern Midwest - November 2016

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