Art School: Mural with a Minnetonka theme at Groveland Elementary

Artist Adam Turman brings history to life on a mural for a Minnetonka school.

Groveland Elementary School in Minnetonka had a courtyard that no one was using. The principal and the PTO wanted to do something to make the space both useful and attractive. So they built a small stage and planned some landscaping. Then they hired Twin Cities artist Adam Turman to create and paint a mural for the back wall of the space.

Turman is a commercial artist who does illustrations for ad campaigns and promotional materials. He also does large-scale murals for businesses. His work can be seen all over, in places as varied as Butcher and the Boar restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, at the Minnesota State Fair and at the new Radisson Red hotel. Before the Groveland PTO hired him for this project, he had never worked in a school before and was impressed by the way the project was put together. “The PTO approached me and asked me to paint the mural. They were so well-organized,” Turman says. “Even the small details, like how the wood was mounted on the wall so that I had a good surface to paint on—everything was just well done.”

Laurie Bremer is the Groveland PTO member who contacted Turman. “I work with a man Adam went to high school with,” Bremer explains. “I mentioned the courtyard project I was working on, and he recommended I check out Adam's work. I was actually familiar with his work although I didn't know him by name. Adam ended up being perfect for the mural we had in mind.”

Bremer says that Groveland is the oldest continuously operating school in the state, so naturally the PTO wanted to emphasize the history of the Lake Minnetonka area. The original Groveland Elementary building is one of the things depicted in the mural. “We didn't want the history to overtake the piece, as our school is today more about our connection to [the community] and the water,” Bremer says. “However, with Groveland’s rich history, we knew we shouldn't completely ignore it.”

Some of the sailboats floating here and there on the mural lake have the school district logo on their sails. The Steamboat Minnehaha is another prominent feature of the mural. The old Excelsior Amusement Park is pictured on the shores of the lake as well. Turman says the kids were particularly interested in hearing about the old park.

The mural is done in Turman’s usual style—an enhanced graphic style that uses bold color and simple, striking images. “The thing that made this project different was having the kids around to watch and ask questions,” Turman says. “The younger ones asked really basic things, but the older kids, like fifth- and sixth-graders, asked some really thoughtful and insightful questions. They are such great kids at that school.”

Future students at Groveland can learn about how the ferry took commuters across the lake and wonder what it must’ve been like to ride the old wooden roller coaster at the amusement park. Turman says that he feels like the mural is already making those kinds of connections. “The mural is really speaking to the past already,” Turman said. “The mural uses those images to tell a little story.”