Major new public art in the Twin Cities
As part of its renovation, the theatre commissioned artist John Pugh, who has won international acclaim for his work in trompe l’oeil, a style which uses realistic imagery, perspective, and other techniques to create a three-dimensional effect. He has created more than 250 murals throughout the world; this marks his first work in Minnesota.
After touring TRP, he developed concepts for the building’s three public-facing walls. The Board of Directors approved his designs and, in January, 2017, he began work on it in his California studio. By July, he and his assistants were onsite, gradually transforming the theatre’s south wall with the image of a glass globe. This first — and main — mural is a massive (65’ x 37’) painting, completed in October, 2017.
THE GLOBE MURAL (To see the globe close-up, CLICK HERE.)
In seeking a simple and iconic image to depict Theatre in the Round Players and its unique arena stage, Pugh imagined a show literally in-the-round — inside a globe.
Inside the globe, actors are performing scenes from different shows. In its foreground, two black-clad figures wearing headsets — representing the designers and technicians who help create every production — are pushing the globe forward. Another figure, alongside the globe, helps push as well, representing the hundreds of volunteers who — from audience services to administration — have kept shows rolling out for more than 65 years.
The figures themselves were chosen by Pugh from a wide variety of TRP show photos and based on models who posed in his California studio (the female technician in the foreground, however, is a self-portrait by one of his colleagues, an artist from Mexico).
In a nod to TRP’s history as the oldest theatre in the city, the globe reflects the skyline of the West Bank neighborhood, its home since 1969 when the theatre moved from downtown Minneapolis.
Sauntering along the very top of the globe is Sammy, the theatre cat that was a favorite company member for more than ten years.
THE FRONT WALL
The front wall is a homage to TRP’s landmark blueprint mural. (For an enlarged view, CLICK HERE.)
In 1985, to publicize the theatre’s campaign to purchase and renovate its building, we painted the blueprint of our remodeling plans directly on the face of the building. The blueprint facade received national publicity and became “…one of the most venerable pieces of wall art in town” –Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2016. (For more about the original blueprint mural, CLICK HERE.)
Mural artist John Pugh incorporated a refurbished blueprint facade as part of his design for the building. He wrapped the painted brick treatment of the south wall around to partially cover the front wall, making it appear that the bricks had fallen away, revealing an underlying blueprint. The blueprint itself, which originally showed future plans, was updated to detail the facade’s architectural history. And a cornerstone was created by painting a foundation block from the building that was originally adjacent to show TRP’s home was built in 1910.
THE NORTH WALL
Artist Pugh uses his signature “broken wall” technique to reveal the theatre within. To set his painting, John chose Caesar and Cleopatra as the production (which was performed in the arena in 1980); the actors in the title roles are shown getting ready in the dressing room.
And, because John prefers this style of mural to show a reason why the wall is broken (e.g., a globe being pushed through it), he completes this mural with a wizard-type figure at street level, parting the wall with his staff.
For more information on the artist,
John Pugh, CLICK HERE.
For a history of TRP’s
home on the West Bank,