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NE Mural Painted Over and Artists Want Answers

Plus St. Cloud's 'ugliest' house, just how American is MN, and the parking lot gulls of St. Paul in today's Flyover news roundup.

Gustavo Lira Garcia|

Garcia’s colorful mural, left, is now a bleak black wall.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Mural, Mural, Off the Wall

This weekend, thousands will descend upon northeast Minneapolis for Art-A-Whirl, enjoying works from more than 1,000 artists and galleries. But right now, community members want answers about one specific piece of art: a mural that's been painted over on the building at 1851 Central Ave NE.

The mural, Flor de Piña, was painted by local artist Gustavo Lira Garcia, who says he found out his work was in the process of being removed last Thursday. By the time he made it over to the building, it had disappeared. "It's incredible, one hour, it was just... gone," he tells Racket, chuckling. "I'm laughing, but at the moment, it feels really bad."

Garcia painted Flor de Piña on the building that was most recently Half Fancy (and The Mill before that) about a year and a half ago. He'd been selected for the Mural Central project, an effort of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, and Public Functionary. It was a time- consuming and personal process: He had to apply, submit work samples, and write a letter of interest about the piece he wanted to create, which would celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of Central Avenue.

Now, all that time and effort has been erased, and neighbors and arts orgs are calling for answers.

"The way I feel is concerned about the art," Garcia says. "I feel very devastated—something you created has been destroyed with no consultation whatsoever, nothing that indicates that's going to happen... I don't want this to happen to any other artist, or any other public art."

Artists and businesses in the area need each other, Garcia continues. This weekend's Art-A-Whirl is a great example of that symbiotic relationship.

Garcia says he tried to meet with the building's owner (Tryg Truelson of Truco, Inc., according to property records) over the weekend, but Truelson canceled their meeting. (Rumor has it a Starbucks is going into the building... perhaps any color or character was simply too much for the coffee giant.) And Garcia emphasizes that he's not looking to cast blame or have a confrontation—he wants to start a conversation about the importance of art in public places, the relationship between art and community, and respecting art and artists.

"I feel so lucky to be part of this community, you know?" he says. "It's a place of art; there should be art outside. Not erasing art."

Ugly House Not... That Ugly?

We've written about St. Cloud's so-called Barbie House before—it's a Zillow Gone Wild classic. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 2,147-square-footer at 630 Riverside Dr. SE has a mint-green exterior that opens to a hot-pink interior. The bungalow boasts wild mid-century flourishes, unusual built-ins, and lot of funky wallpaper. It's an explosion of kitsch, but it's also... quite cute? I mean, a few of the rooms need some work, but if you didn't see yourself living here, this thing would crush on Airbnb. Let's look at some of the photos Edina Realty shared with us back in 2022:

So imagine our surprise upon learning that this quirky little house just won the title of the northern region's "Ugliest House in America" on HGTV. "It's cramped. It's dim. It's cinder block. It's a jail cell," says host Retta, which... I'm sorry, are we looking at the same house? Is there a Pepto-pink, carpeted jail somewhere I just don't know about? "Barbie's Dream Big House"?

Jack and Joe Griffin-Janey, the couple who bought the house for $250,000 in 2022, will now move on to the finals, and they've got a chance to win $150,000 for home renovations if they win. But it must be said: This can't be the ugliest house in America. It's not even the ugliest house in St. Cloud.

MN: Not Special

In his latest Department of Data column for the Washington Post, Andrew Van Dam attempts to use data to identify the U.S. state that's most like the U.S. as a whole. In other words: What are the most American states in America?

The column (as brought to our attention by Christopher Ingraham in the Minnesota Reformer's daily newsletter) is full of interesting insights. When it comes to race, Illinois is the most demographically “normal” state, followed by Connecticut and New York. If religion is your metric, Arizona most representatively balances Catholics and Christians with Muslims, Jews, Hindus and those who are unaffiliated. Income, education rates, population density, employment, the number of veterans—the WaPo combined 30 variables, finding that Illinois, Florida, and Pennsylvania (go Birds) are the most "American" states while Hawaii, Alaska, and D.C. are the least representative.

Overall, Minnesota ranks 21st on the list, neither especially representative of America nor notably different. As Ingraham writes, "It’s the Midwestern way." We are better educated than average, though, so there's a little loon feather for your cap.

St. Paul's Parking Lots and the Gulls That Love Them

"Like most people, I associate gulls with massive bodies of water, Great Lakes or the ocean," Bill Lindeke writes in MinnPost today. "Instead, here they are cawing and circling around an abandoned beige 80,000 square-foot Herberger’s."

The squawking of gulls used to be a sound reserved for the coast of Lake Superior. These days, you'll see them all over St. Paul, where they tend to flock to parking lots, putting their scavenging skills to use. Lindeke writes that the expansive paved lots actually make perfect sense for gulls: there's abundant food trash, like chip bags, which keeps them fed, and long sight-lines, which help them keep an eye out for predators.

Are the gulls "offering a critique of land use policy and litter," as Lindeke writes here? Yes, we like to think that they are.

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