A self-described “whimsical wildlife documentarian,” Susan Gainen has a story for every creature she’s created in her St. Paul studio. Now, Jerry the Jade elephant and a host of her other animal friends are adding to their stories by taking their place on the side of a bus shelter.
“The first design I sent in was sent back because there were just too many,” Gainen said. “So here I sit with these creatures who are saying, ‘Why didn’t you pick me?’”
While Gainen is putting an imaginative spin on what is her first public art project, the new shelter artwork has a serious purpose – to deter costly and time-consuming vandalism. While many shelters have advertising displays, this is the first time artwork has been applied to shelter glass.
“Public art has been shown to deter graffiti and vandalism, which take a lot of resources to respond to,” Public Arts Administrator Mark Granlund said. “It’s also an opportunity to provide some unexpected joy to customers and passerby and gives artists a unique opportunity to share their work.”
Similar efforts have been made at the Uptown Transit Station, where colorful tiles have been installed to remove a canvas for graffiti, and at the 28th Avenue Park & Ride, where murals were installed in 2020.
Gainen’s design is on one of two artworks that were recently applied to shelters. It appears on a shelter on 73rd Avenue in Brooklyn Park, in a residential area.
The second design was created by Minneapolis artist Ted Hansen, who digitally enhanced images from his original paintings. The design most prominently displays an oversized image of a perch. Hansen’s work appears on a shelter at the corner of Maryland Avenue and Clarence Street, near Saint Paul’s Lake Phalen, a popular fishing spot.
Hansen, a fly-angler and Minneapolis Public Schools teacher, said he’s always thrilled to see his work in public. His work can be found anywhere from fine art galleries to stickers decorating bumpers or coolers.
“To see it on that scale and in that public of a setting is really exciting,” he said.