Most visitors to new cities don’t come home raving about the locations manhole covers, but the city of Minneapolis has made their their underfoot sewer covers a point of artistic pride with designs that celebrate the area’s art, history, and wildlife.
Beginning in the early 1980’s the city of Minneapolis began asking artists to design iconic new manhole covers for the city. They chose 11 artists to create illustrations for the ubiquitous urban sight, and each of the chosen creators provided a different take. From David Atkinson’s whimsical summer grill design to Stuart D. Kippler’s introspective geography marker, each of the cover’s turned what was once a mundane city feature into a unique piece of art.
Later on in 1990, the city renovated the popular Nicollet Mall and tapped artist Kate Burke to create designs for manhole covers that would be spread across a 13 block area of downtown Minneapolis. She took inspiration from the states many official accouterment and across 11 different designs, Burke created sculpted images of regional icons like the Minnesota state fish (the Walleye), the state fruit (Halverson Apple), and the state bird (Loon). The detailed pieces of steel each feature tableaus of their subject that make most municipal equipment look lazy in comparison. Some of the covers even feature small hidden details such as a worm in the state apple, or a pheasant erupting from the bronzed image of the state grain (Wild Rice).
Locals and tourists alike have a tendency to literally pass over the unique manhole covers these days, but for those willing to hunt them down they can act as a one-of-a -kind connect the dots of urban art.