Renowned St. Paul stencil art duo, Broken Crow, has certainly been busy this Spring–just take a spin along the central corridor/University Ave if you don’t believe us! You’ll be hard pressed to miss John Grider and Mike Fitzsimmons’ colorful, large-scale stencil murals gracing a handful of buildings between the 600 block to the 21oo block of Uni, along the light rail line. The project, entitled “The Bigger Picture” is just that: each of the four completed murals tells a larger story through imagery of wild animals traveling in a herd (a clever play on the idea of mass transit, say we!). But all mural praising aside, the duo has a far “bigger picture” than just painting larger-than-life works of art on buildings, despite their obvious talent for it. Grider and Fitzsimmons have been working diligently (and of course collaboratively) on numerous smaller scale works on canvas, which harken to more of a fine art mentality. The duo’s second solo exhibit in three years at South Minneapolis’ XYandZ Gallery–opening this Friday– will showcase another side of the artists, with 19 new pieces that incorporate mixed media, painterly brush strokes, and Broken Crow’s signature stencil work.
We recently chatted with Mike and John about the central corridor project and about their upcoming exhibit…
You are both St. Paul based artists but have created murals all over the world. How did “The Bigger Picture Project” along the light rail come about and who’s behind it?
“The Bigger Picture Project” came about in an effort to expand upon how we create murals and how we can add more content to how they are viewed. Equally inspired by playing puzzles with our daughters and making huge murals even bigger. Also, we liked the idea of a large project that could be done at home, showing St. Paul in a light that is both ambitious and progressive. “The Bigger Picture” by Broken Crow was financed in part by the Cultural Sales Tax Revitalization Program through the City of St. Paul and is a collaboration of Irrigate.
Can you tell us a little about your concept for the series of murals?
“The Bigger Picture” is set of 4 murals painted on multiple locations along St. Paul’s central corridor (633 University Ave painted on May 8th; 651 University Ave painted on May 10th;2145 University Ave painted on May 11th and May 13th-both sides). The entire set of murals fit together to create one “Bigger Picture”. Each Mural is a stand-alone piece that hints at more of a composition. The overall composition created was 32 feet tall by 60 feet wide. A multiple location mural has never been attempted in this fashion. Broken Crow and Benjamin Clasen (Midnight Toil) created an animation of the painting process of the entire set of murals using time-lapse documentation (30,000 photos). We choose Benjamin Clasen as the Director of Photography/Photographer for “The Bigger Picture”. Benjamin’s beautiful photos, technical know-how, passion, and work ethic were a perfect fit for this or any other project. So basiclly, we love collaborating with Benjamin Clasen and can’t wait to work with him again. The image we chose to paint is a diverse community of animals moving forward together in herd transit. This is a reflection of the light rail itself reminding passengers of the daily grind we all share.
You both have kids, what do they think of your murals?
Our kids love our murals. They recognize our work and the content within and usually get excited to talk about all of the animals. Although, we have been told “We like our little arts better,” we know we have their love and support.
You have a new exhibit opening at XYandZ Gallery in South Minneapolis this Friday. What can people expect?
People can expect to see a whole body of work created with a new approach to our paintings. This approach allows each of us to focus on our strengths, and we both get to do more of what we like best. John focused on collage and Mike focused on painting. We couldn’t be happier with the results.
What are your favorite people/places/things in St. Paul?
Favorite people: Patrick at the Highland Frameworks (best framing designer ever), Bryan Moeller at R.F.Moeller Jewler (best jewelry conversation/ prices), Rick at Marshall Liquor (best liquor recommendations/prices). Chris Hernandez at Expert Carpentry (best carpenter), Stephen Chapman at SRC Tree Care (best at climbing trees), and everyone at Wet Paint (our favorite art supply store).
Favorite places: Como Zoo, The cliffs just below the St. Paul monument, The NOOK (burgers!), The Hickory Hut (wings!), Granny’s Donuts (blueberry cake DONUT!), and Acme Deli (best cold sandwich).
To check out more of Broken Crow’s work visit their website at www.brokencrow.com and check out their new exhibit “We Did What We Could” at XYandZ Gallery, which opens this Friday, June 15th with a reception from 7-10pm (exhibit runs through July 21st). XYandZ is located at 3258 Minnehaha Ave S, Minneapolis, 55406 (yes, you’ll have to cross the river for this one!). The event is free and open to the public. For more info visit www.thexyandz.com.