A Minneapolis muralist
Article from the Southwest Journal
October 22, 2015 // UPDATED 11:52 am - November 2, 2015
BY: ERIC BEST
Artist Adam Turman works out of a garage at his St. Louis Park home.
Adam Turman's murals are covering Minneapolis walls one project at a time.
The artist and screen printer is widely known locally as a translator of Minneapolis cultural icons — bikes, beer, babes and buildings, among others — into posters, paintings and more. But recently Turman’s now-signature mural work has had businesses around the city vying for him to paint their walls.
“Last year was a huge year for us,” he said. “I’m always trying to think of what’s next, what’s cool, what are people into.”
Like many local artists, Turman got his start as a student at the University of Minnesota where he studied design communication, which would later become graphic design. With early inspirations like skateboarding magazine Thrasher, science fiction artist Frank Frazetta and St. Paul pinup painter Gil Elvgren, a young Turman designed gig posters for local bands and venues for years. He went on to join the Squad 19 Design Collective in St. Paul and work as the in-house graphic designer for the university for over a decade. Now he runs a screen-printing business out of his St. Louis Park home, in addition to illustration, poster and other work.
The first mural didn’t come until just a few years ago when Turman and a fellow artist asked the founder of Surly Brewing to do a mural at the brewery’s original Brooklyn Center facility.
The mural caught the attention of a co-owner of Butcher and the Boar who commissioned Turman to do a high-profile project on Hennepin Avenue. The piece, which depicts women enjoying various seasons around Minneapolis, is visible to thousands of commuters and pedestrians each day.
And more mural work came. Businesses around Minneapolis, from large downtown offices to a small-scale Northeast Minneapolis brewer, are clamoring for a Turman paint job.
“Mural work is growing more and more popular,” said Brian Geihl, Turman’s assistant of about six years and a local artist known as Dogfish Media. “Businesses are… getting interested. It gives them an extra edge through branding and artwork.”
Between 2013 and 2014, Turman painted three murals for Uptown-based tech company Livefront, including two publically visible pieces on the company’s building that cover a combined 2,000 square feet of wall space.
“Our murals get kudos and compliments all the time,” said Livefront founder Mike Bollinger in an email. “Our murals are a point of integration into the local community.”
Louise Chalfant, the Guthrie Theater’s director of education, also hired Turman to bring art to the theater’s blank walls. In May the artist covered part of the theater’s eighth floor with a scene of leaves similar to that of the views from the Endless Bridge.
“For my staff, when I told them Adam Turman was coming in, it was like a rock star was coming. He definitely brought an element of cool,” Chalfant said.
The mural is located in the publically accessible learning center — no ticket required — and will be worked into merchandise.
Those walking on Main Street past the new A-Mill Artist Lofts in Marcy-Holmes may have also seen a pair of huge orange eyes staring out at them amid the construction. The beguiling creature, an owl designed by Turman, is actually a mural commissioned on behalf of the developer, Plymouth-based Dominium.
“You can’t ignore it,” joked Andrea Fazendin, a project consultant with Art Partners who brought Turman in.
Though it won’t be done until December, Jason Burgoon, proprietor of Bodies by Burgoon, is gearing up for a new Turman mural in an expansion of his personal training studio in the Thorp Building in Northeast Minneapolis. Burgoon chose the artist to represent the business’ mission statement in art form partially because of Turman’s commitment to his community.
“He loves Minneapolis and he’s known for his work showcasing who we are as a city,” Burgoon said.
Inspired to go international
One of Turman’s latest works is also his most unique. Behind the Loring Corners building, in one of the city’s most picturesque alleyways, the Butcher and the Boar team once again hired Turman to do his thing. With their new seafood-focused restaurant 4Bells, which opened earlier this year in the former Joe’s Garage space, the team wanted something a little different for this next wall.
Rather than Turman’s typical symbols like bikes and the Minneapolis skyline, the mural depicts Poseidon fighting the fearsome Kraken.
“I wanted to do something that wasn’t so ‘Minneapolis,’” Turman said.
The step toward more diverse subject matter is an intentional move to attract more national and global work.
Local mural work has drastically elevated thanks to some international attention this summer when Minneapolis hosted Eduardo Kobra. The renowned artist painted a colossal mural immortalizing Bob Dylan on Hennepin & 5th in downtown Minneapolis.
Turman said the piece has been a big inspiration and will hopefully lead to more work in the Twin Cities.
“It put Minneapolis on the map for mural work so we can celebrate that and… hopefully have more of that,” he said.
Though he’s a leader in Twin Cities mural work, Turman has yet to do a project outside the Midwest.
“I haven’t really branched out too terribly far,” he said.
A ‘hangable’ style
It’s this philosophy to market his murals and screen-printing to new clients that Turman says sets him apart.
“I’m always thinking about hangability, marketability. I’m not a traditional artist in that way,” he said. “My studio is so small that I can’t have work just sit there and not see the light of day.”
Geihl has helped put up several murals over the past few years. He knows Turman’s style like few others (“He’s literally my right hand man because I’m left handed,” Turman says).
“His style is very identifiable,” Geihl said, noting Turman’s penchant for a bold, graphic art with sharp lines and color palettes. “He makes it look so easy.”
It’s this style that’s allowed Turman to branch out to with murals all over the city. Loving craft beer and bikes — Turman worked at Penn Cycle and was a year-round bike commuter — has also helped his popularity, especially in Northeast Minneapolis where he’s designed a 612Brew mural and the brewery’s cans, among other projects.
“It’s kind of like the cool place to be. The people who buy my art and love my art, a lot of them are from Northeast,” he said.
While there may not have been a silver bullet to his popularity, Turman credits each job and each new client in finding his next project.
“Great people know more great people, and you go on to hopefully do more great work with amazing, awesome people.”
Photos by Eric Best and Donner Humenberger