Installation of artistic bridge railing underway in north Minneapolis

September 12, 2023

An artistic railing is now being installed along the Olson Memorial Highway bridge over Interstate 94. The new railing, which is part of the John Biggers Seed Project, is coming to life through a partnership of Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center, Minnesota Department of Transportation and the City of Minneapolis.

The Seed Project is a public art and collaborative design effort celebrating African-American art and artists. Through the work of local Black artists, the bridge’s chain link fence is being replaced by a new artistic railing visible from both the bridge and the freeway. Over the coming weeks, more than 300 glass-enameled metal panels will be installed in that railing. The panels are enameled on both sides, making the artwork visible to people on the bridge as well as drivers on I-94.

The project gets its name from John Biggers, a major African-American artist of the 20th century. Biggers created the design for Celebration of Life mural, which was installed in 1996 on a sound wall at the intersection of Olson Memorial Highway and Lyndale Avenue South, adjacent to the new public art railing. The mural and the entire sound wall were destroyed in 2000 as part of the construction for the Heritage Park housing project, and Biggers himself passed away in 2002. The 15 Seed Project artists who are inspired by his mural are now bringing art back to this area of Minneapolis.

The Seed Project is led by artists Ta-coumba T. Aiken and Seitu Jones, and the design was developed collectively with artists Mica Lee Anders, Sayge Carroll, Roger Cummings, Patrick Cunningham, Angela Davis, Loretta Day, Christopher Aaron Deanes, Adrienne Doyle, Jeremiah Bey Ellison, Jordan Hamilton, Chris Harrison, Esther Osayande and Chris Scott. Willis Bing Davis and Jon Onye Lockard, colleagues of the late John Biggers, also advised on the project.

It is anticipated that the railing installation will be complete early this fall.

Seed is a project of the City’s Art in Public Places program and the Department of Public Works. The City’s Art in Public Places program integrates public art into city planning, services, design, and infrastructure.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation owns the bridge and has partnered with the City to permit the installation of the project through its Art on Trunk Highway Right of Way policy.

Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center is an arts organization based in south Minneapolis that focuses on art forms produced using heat, spark or flame. This includes blacksmithing, enameling, glass, jewelry making, metal casting, neon, sculptural welding and other creative processes. Its programs include arts education, artist support and public art, which together provide a platform for social impact and community-driven resources. The center is one of a few facilities nationwide where artists can work in enamel at public art scale.

This project is funded through the City’s Art in Public Places Program, the McKnight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Program. Obsidian Arts and the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Outreach Engagement Center have also provided support to the project.

For more information, visit the project website.