Water Science Manoomin

Photo: William Hurst

Water Science Manoomin

Adam Swanson - September 2021

With the impressive wingspan on Adam Swanson’s Snowy Owl, folks may not be aware of smaller murals, but tucked away along West Michigan Street is another gem by Swanson: Water Science Manoomin.

The story behind Water Science Manoomin is near and dear to Ecolibrium3 and Main Street Lincoln Park, creators of the Lincoln Park Art Walk Project.

Early in 2021, Artist Adam Swanson approached Shannon Laing of Main Street Lincoln Park because he was looking for a place to do a small scale mural. Swanson had secured a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to create an art piece bridging art and science. For this project, he also enlisted the help of Fond Du Lac Resource Management and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency with some extra help from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for inspiration. With pieces permanently installed at OMC Smokehouse, having previous experience with the Snowy Owl project and having been the featured artist for a showing at Duluth Pottery and Tile – all in the Lincoln Park neighborhood – he knew his art would be well received. After looking at several locations in the neighborhood as well as downtown Duluth, a spot on the west wall of Happy Sleeper facing the Ecolibrium3 patio was determined to be the best place. Laing connected Swanson with Happy Sleeper and the building owner, his concept was approved,  and work began in August of 2021. 

Water Science Manoomin was painted using the same method as Snowy Owl, with the images painted offsite on Polytab,  a non-woven acrylic fiber that is then applied onto the building. The painting took place over the course of a couple of months at Swanson’s studio, then was installed with some overlapping paint onsite over the course of a few days. As far as murals go, this one is relatively small, measuring 18’ x 10’, and can be viewed from West Michigan Street. It is also visible from I-35, adding to the overall neighborhood goal of art that can be seen by folks traveling past Lincoln Park on the interstate. More significantly, the location of this image of the St. Louis River Estuary wild rice restoration is located at the mouth of that same estuary—the St. Louis River ends along Lincoln Park’s south shoreline—although that location is not apparent unless you are looking from an aerial view.

The image shows Canada geese who like to feast on the manoomin seedlings and cattails planted to discourage the damage that can be done by the geese on the right. On the left is mature rice being harvested in the traditional way into a canoe. “Manoomin is ecologically so unique and culturally so important… I sing to it when I rice”, said Fond Du Lac Natural Resource’s Tom Howes. “I like that the story is here.”

Howes isn’t the only one. Shortly after the mural went up, Laing witnessed a mother and son driving slowly by, then pulling over to take  photos and selfies. They told her that they love Swanson’s work and try to get photos of his art whenever possible.  The folks along West Michigan feel honored to have a mural of their own – it’s a gem worth seeking out. 

“I am a painter and muralist fascinated by the way science fiction posits a future for humanity that is transformed by major environmental changes and technological innovations. My invented landscapes ask viewers to consider unfamiliar places, such as the lines between true false, fiction and documentation, natural growth and urban development.”

 – Adam Swanson

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Photos: Shannon Laing, Tristen Eberling, William Hurst

Mural Location

Happy Sleeper / Ecolibrium3, 2010 W Superior St (On rear wall, viewable from West Michigan Street)