Public Art History Tour Around Grand Marais, Minnesota

Grand Marais, Minnesota, is home to a vibrant public art scene, with many captivating pieces scattered throughout the town. Most of these works of art have been made possible through grants that support local artists and cultural initiatives. Taking the public art tour around Grand Marais allows visitors and residents alike to immerse themselves in the creativity and talent of the community.

From colorful murals depicting the town's history to whimsical sculptures adorning street corners, each piece of public art tells a story and adds character to the town's landscape. Strolling through Grand Marais on this art tour provides a unique opportunity to appreciate the beauty and diversity of artistic expression, while also learning about the rich cultural heritage of the area. Among the captivating artworks you'll encounter are mosaics crafted by talented elementary and middle school students. These mosaics not only showcase the artistic prowess of young minds but also serve as a testament to the importance of arts education in fostering imagination and self-expression. The fusion of past and present, as seen through the eyes of budding artists, adds layers of depth to the cultural landscape of Grand Marais, making it a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts and admirers of all ages.The legacy of these artists resonates through the streets, inviting visitors to pause, reflect, and appreciate the beauty that emerges when imagination meets expression. The preservation of these murals, mosaics, and sculptures not only honors the efforts of our artists but also serves as a source of inspiration for future generations of artists.Whether you're a seasoned art enthusiast or simply looking to explore something new, the public art tour around Grand Marais is sure to inspire and delight all who embark on it. 

Don't forget to capture your favorite moments and share them with the world using the hashtag #donorthmn. By documenting your experiences, you not only celebrate the artistry of Grand Marais but also contribute to the collective appreciation of public art. Whether you're exploring solo, with family, or alongside curious children, this public art tour promises to inspire, educate, and spark joy in all who partake. Embrace the opportunity to connect with the community's past, present, and future through the lens of art, and cherish the memories created along the way.

 Sculpture Tour of Grand Marais


1) Helmer Aakvik

Artist(s): Jim Korf, Yarrow Korf and Mike Jansen

Created: 2019

Location: 9 4th W, Grand Marais, MN 55604

Description: The carving of Helmer Aakvik (1896-1987) sitting on a fish barrel gazing out over Lake Superior is based on a plaster statue done by artist Jim Korf (1937-2013). Korf’s grandson and artist, Yarrow Korf and artist Mike Jansen began the piece in the summer of 2019. Todd and Susan Miller commissioned the work.

Aakvik gained notoriety in 1958 for his heroic attempt to save Carl Hammer during a fierce Lake Superior storm in November. He spent 28 hours on the stormy freezing lake and returned to tell the tale. Hammer was not found.

The carving is fashioned from local cedar. It is partially painted and will be completed at a later date. Miller explained that there is an interesting narrative with this family of artists. This carving was an opportunity to bring attention to them and the character of Aakvik. The fisherman’s reticence at publicity yet pride in his accomplishments of surviving Lake Superior comes through the piece. Grand Marais is a creative destination and this was something they (the Millers) could do as patrons to promote the area and its artists and stories.


Statue Nearby a Rental Cabin North of 9 4th W


2) The Walleye

Artist(s): Jim Korf 1989 and Mike Janson 2003 & 2016

Created: 1989, 2003,2016

Location: The Beaver House 

Description: Beaver House owner William (Bill) Cronberg and his sons Martin and Tyson commissioned artist Jim Korf (1937 – 2013) to create a beaver house on the west face of the store in 1989. Korf also added two paintings on either side of the relief of local natural scenes. The walleye head was added in 1990, followed by the tail in 1991. The three-dimensional pieces are painted fiberglass, wood and bondo. They draw attention to the store. The beaver house relief is a visual pun on the business name. The walleye relates to the fishing tackle sold in the store. They both represent the local area and give character to the City of Grand Marais. Artist Jim Korf is known for his realistic artwork and tremendous attention to detail. Artist Mike Jansen replaced the paintings on either side of the beaver house in 2003 and then again in 2016. He used a drawing by Bill’s wife, Betty, as a model for the paintings.

Walleye at The Beaver House


3) The Apple

Artist(s): Dick and Alan Stone of Sawtooth Ridge Woodcraft

Created: 1988

Location: Grand Marais Family Dentistry Office

Description: Dentist Rolf Lindquist commissioned the Apple in 1988. Dick and Alan Stone (Sawtooth Ridge Woodcraft) expanded his original idea of a 2-dimensional apple into the current three-dimensional piece. The sign makers were intrigued with the challenge to make something more interesting. It is made out of 2x12 Western Redwood that was fashioned into a hollow Macintosh apple. They fashioned a lathe-like apparatus to turn the rough wood, smoothing it with a router and continuing the process with a belt sander. The bite was modeled after an actual bite out of an apple.

The Apple, Grand Marais Family Dentistry


4) Bear Tree 

Artist(s): Raymond Gormley and his 1953 Summer Students 

Created: August 12th, 1953

Location: Bear Tree Park

Description: Bear Tree, sculpted by Art Colony Instructor Ramond Gormley and his students in the summer of 1953, was a gift from the Grand Marais Art Colony (Townhall Art Colony at the time) to the City of Grand Marais. This gift was to show appreciation for the City’s support of the Art Colony.  It is made of concrete and steel. The sculpture represents typical black bear behavior where two black bear cubs wait in a tree until their mother returns to call them down after a danger has passed. Note the plaque at the base of the tree. Bear Tree Park has grown around it, linking downtown Grand Marais to the shore of the harbor.

Bear Tree in Bear Tree Park


5) Art Colony Entrances 

Artist(s): Steve and Sharon Frykman

Created: 2015

Location: Grand Marais Art Colony 

Description: The landscape entrance to the new Art Colony Building was designed and installed by Steve and Sharon Frykman in the summer of 2015. The Art Colony commissioned the piece with funds from Cook County, and the Frykmans donated the rest. The entrance access is a pragmatic response to a request for a functional landscape design. By using the repeating design of 3D (the boulder and planter), 2D (the walkway) and the negative space of the planter, the installation attracts attention. The local stone represents creative flow of process, energy and water. A central stone in the walkway is the shape of an egg. This represents the seed of creativity, a shape that is repeated in the boulder and in the negative space of the planter. The Grand Marais Art Colony is a seed of creativity in Cook County and the region.

Art Colony Entrance, Grand Marais Art Colony

Art Colony Entrance, The Grand Marais Art Colony



6) The Bobber Benches 

Artist(s): Mike Jansen with collaboration from Sarah Hamilton

Created: 2016-2017

Location: The Beaver House

Description: The Bobber Bench offers passersby a comfortable place to sit or be photographed outside the famous Beaver House. Artist Mike Jansen created the bench based on Sarah Hamilton’s original idea. A Great Place Project grant was awarded for the work to be completed in 2016. The bench is made from local cedar (logged by Mac West). It speaks of Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes where fishing is popular. It refers to the tackle sold inside the Beaver House.


Bobber Bench, Beaver House


7) Co-op Bike Rack

Artist: Tom Christiansen

Created: 2013

Location: Cook County Co-op

Description: The Co-op Bike Rack fabricated by sculptor Tom Christiansen is made of painted steel. It was installed in 2013 around the time the new Cook County Whole Foods Co-op opened. He attempted to make a functional rack with a little bit of adornment to make it specific for the site.

Co-op Bike Rack, Cook County Co-op


8) Full Circle

Artist(s): Dan Ross, Lee Ross, Tim Hall, Jason Hall, and Randy Schnobrich

Created: 2003

Location: Sawtooth Mountain Clinic

Description: Artists Dan and Lee Ross designed Full Circle sculpture, with assistance from Tim and Jason Hall (masonry) and Randy Schnobrich (wooden benches). The piece was installed at the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic in 2003. It represents a family on Paradise Beach along the shore of Lake Superior. The parents gaze out over the beauty of the open horizon as their child plays. The space provides a place for patients, staff and visitors to gather strength for their journey: a reprieve from their challenges. The figures are black granite, and the bench supports are local boulders. One hundred and twenty-seven individuals donated funds for this project.


Full Circle, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic


9) Gateway Arch Entrance to The Gunflint Trail 

Artist(s): The Civilian Conservation Corps, Rodney Krueger, David Woerheide, Yarrow Korf, and Jordy Kirk

Created: 1940

Location: Near the Grand Marais Public Library

Description: The Gateway Arch (or Gateway to the Gunflint Trail) was originally created between its conception in 1937 and its dedication on September 26, 1940. It does not include an arch, but one was proposed in the original plans. It framed one of the routes to the Gunflint Trail at that time. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) supplied the labor. The standing bear and voyageur figures, painted metal cutouts, were not part of the original gateway, but were added in 1957 by the Gunflint Trail Association according to a source at the Cook County Historical Society. Rodney Krueger (1926 – 2002) painted the first bear in the motorboat on plywood around 1965. This bear covered or replaced the metal standing bear. David Woerheide replaced and replicated the motorboat bear around 1999. Yarrow Korf repainted and repaired both figures, and Jordy Kirk (Mjolnir Construction) and others repaired the stonework in 2013. It is still unknown who the artist was who did the original metal figures and when they were installed. The precise sequence of events to repaint, repair and preserve the figures is also unknown, but many people have participated in this over the years.The piece is interesting because of its early history and its quaintness. The stonework is historical work from the WPA and the figures are local folk art.


Gateway Arch Entrance to The Gunflint Trail

Gateway Arch Entrance to The Gunflint Trail


10) Grandmother Bench 

Artist: Tom Christiansen 

Created: 2011

Location: Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery

Description: The Grandmother Bench is a cast bronze bench made from cardboard patterns and offers a comfortable place to gaze at Bear Tree Park and the Grand Marais Harbor beyond. It was commissioned by the Hyatt family to honor the life of Marcia Hyatt’s mother, Janet Davison Thayer. Tom Christiansen sculpted the piece, and it was installed in August 2011.

Grandmother Bench Memorial, JHP Gallery


11) Mosaic Benches 

Artist(s): Kelly Dupre and Peter Jansen

Created: 2014

Location: Grand Marais Art Colony

Description: The Mosaic Benches are located outside the Grand Marais Art Colony and invite people to sit and hangout. They are a collaboration of artist Kelly Dupre and woodworker Peter Jansen. Their design uses recycled materials for everything in the benches except the cement. The mosaic design features colorful birds and geometric shapes of bicycle parts and found objects. The project was a commission from a Great Places Project grant in 2014.

Mosaic Benches, Grand Marais Art Colony

Mosaic Benches, Grand Marais Art Colony


12) Pierre

Artist: Raymond Duhaime 

Created: 1974

Location: Java Moose  

Description: Artist Raymond Duhaime carved the six-foot Pierre, the voyageur, from a local cedar log in 1973 at his home in Grand Portage. Duhaime was known for his artistic abilities.  The Cook County Historical Society commissioned the work to greet people coming to Grand Marais from the West. It was placed in 1974 as a tribute to the history of the fur trade in Cook County. Duhaime was a local crafts person from Grand Portage where the voyageurs passed through Cook County. The welcoming aspect of the carving is fitting in that it reflects part of the history of the area. At the dedication on July 4, 1975, Birney Quick of the Art Colony said, in part,” the town has become richer because of this unique work, carved from natural materials by a local artist using tools familiar to us all.”


Pierre at Java Moose


13) Puzzle Tree

Artist: Tom Christiansen 

Created: 2015

Location: Grand Marais Public Library 

Description: The Puzzle Tree is a colorful dramatic sculpture by Tom Christiansen, commissioned by the Grand Marais Public Library and installed on June 1, 2015 with a grant from the MN Arts and Culture Heritage Fund. It is made entirely of aluminum. Christiansen created the piece to attract attention to the library and appeal especially to children. It was a challenge from an engineering point of view because it needed to be lightweight yet strong enough to withstand the frequent harsh wind.


Puzzle Tree at Grand Marais Public Library


14) Sandhill Crane

Artist: Judd Nelson 

Created: 2014

Location: Grand Marais Art Colony

Description: The four-foot-high Sand Hill Crane appears to be walking by the Art Colony. It was sculpted by metalsmith Judd Nelson who teaches at the GMAC and installed on loan in 2014. It is fashioned by hot foraged and welded plate steel that is salvaged or reclaimed. Nelson tries to convey the animal’s movement keeping aware of the negative spaces that occur. His inspiration for this piece came from a sandhill crane on a freshly cut hay field he was driving by on his way to the Gunflint Trail. The bird was walking in the cleared field looking for dinner. The sculpture is aging nicely with a red and brown patina created by the rusted metal complementing the overall finish. 

Sandhill Crane at GM Art Colony

Sandhill Crane at GM Art Colony


15) The Swimmers

Artist: Paul Granlund

Created: 1997

Location: Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery 

Description: Minneapolis sculptor Paul Granlund had a show at the Johnson Heritage Post in the early 1990s. His Swimmers piece attracted so much attention that it eventually was purchased and installed on May 5, 1997. Johnson Heritage Post held fundraisers to fund the purchase. Granlund had a home in Schroeder and periodically gave lectures in Grand Marais, so he had a presence in Cook County. The bronze piece is a buoyant interweaving of playful figures as they float in space.

The Swimmers, Johnson Heritage Post

19) Inspiration Exchange

Artist(s): Greg Mueller and Amy Demmer (Former Director of The Grand Marais Art Colony)

Created: 2018

Location: Grand Marais Art Colony 

Description: This public sculpture acts as an interactive exchange center, much like a “little free library”. Visitors can take or leave a note or object of inspiration for another. 

Funded by The Cook County Chamber of Commerce Great Place Project Grant, Grand Marais, Minnesota and the Artist. This was constructed using powder-coated steel


Inspiration Exchange

20) George Morrison Totem 

Artist: Unknown

Created: Unknown 

Location: Sawtooth Mountain Clinic Pharmacy


Note from the Artist:

My cubes and totem images have been inspired by early Central American Totec and Olmec columns, and also my desire to make my own contemporary or abstract version of a totem image as apart from early cultures including Northwest Coast Indian Tribes. The techniques involved are building up mosaic-like cut out pieces fixed to a plywood wore to assimilate a carved effect rather than carving into a solid block of wood. Multi Colored exotic wood pieces are used to evoke an aesthetic response. 


George Morrison Totem


Mural Tour of Grand Marais 


1) Co-op Stepping Stone Mosaic 

Artist: 4th Grade Students at Sawtooth Elementary School from 2003-2008

Created: Made in 2003-2008 and Relocated in 2012

Location: Behind Joy & Co

Description: The stepping stone mosaics at the back entrance of Joy and Company are the final year creation of a five-year mosaic mural project by 4th grade classes at Sawtooth Elementary School. Between 2003 and 2008, this project featured the four seasons and covered the north wall of the former Cook County Whole Foods Co-op building. When that building was replaced with the current Co-op, the murals were dismantled. The mosaic steps were removed and installed behind Joy and Company. Other motifs from the mural were stacked and stored behind the Thoreson building. The strength of this project was the creative and technical efforts of students along with their teachers Jana Larsen and Deb Waage, artist mentors Joyce Klees and Kelly Dupre, and a host of community volunteers. Larsen wrote grants annually for the project. Terrill loves the whimsical nature of the design and that they were made by kids. Photos of the four-season mosaic designs are posted on the back wall inside the co-op.

Stepping Stone Mosaic Joy & Co


2) The Welcome Mural 

Artist: Nedetta Buchheit 

Created: 1990's

Location: The Sweetwater Co

Description: The Welcome mural by painter and sculptor Nedetta Buchheit (1920-2013) shows a whimsical group of artists, locals and animals that wave at passersby. Created for fun and to welcome people to the 8 North Broadway Gallery in the 1990’s, the painting is upbeat, even though part of it is missing by replacement doors on the small building. Many people pose with the figures for a photograph.


Welcome Mural, Behind the Hub


3) The Beaver House Paintings 

Artist(s): Jim Korf and Mike Jansen

Created: 1989

Location: The Beaver House 

Description: Beaver House owner William (Bill) Cronberg and his sons Martin and Tyson commissioned artist Jim Korf (1937 – 2013) to create two paintings on either side of the relief of local natural scenes in 1989.  They draw attention to the store. They represent the local area and give character to the City of Grand Marais. Artist Jim Korf is known for his realistic artwork and tremendous attention to detail. Artist Mike Jansen replaced the paintings on either side of the beaver house in 2003 and then again in 2016. He used a drawing by Bill’s wife, Betty, as a model for the paintings.

Walleye at The Beaver House


4) Fish Tank 

Artist: Betsy Bowen

Created: 2016

Location: Como Oil and Propane 

Description: Fish Tank, by Betsy Bowen was commissioned through a Great Places Project grant that Como Oil and Propane received in 2016. The fantasy fish is based on a Lake Trout about to bite on a spoon lure typical of those sold at the Beaver House. The fish is not meant to be realistic, but cheerful and understandable with a bit of fantasy.  Bowen enjoyed the novelty of painting on a 3-dimensional surface.

Fish Tank Como Oil and Propane


5) Imagine the North Land 

Artist: Mila Horak and Grand Marais Arts Festival Attendees 

Created: 2016 - Present 

Location: Alley of First & Second Thrift Store 

Description: Imagine The North Land, a Community Paint by Number Mural Project is an ongoing public art project spearheaded and executed by Mila Horak, art instructor at Cook County High School. Funded by Moving Matters then the Great Place Grant and ARAC, the first mural was installed in 2016 and added to annually. Horak designs, draws and numbers the 4 x 4-foot aluminum panels. They are available for the public to paint during the Grand Marais Arts Festival in July. So far painters have ranged from 2 years to 92 years old. The image of the reader represents that reading can take flight inspired by being up north and take the reader to adventures. The subsequent panels feature inspirational aspects of being and living in Cook County, up north.

Imagine The North Land at First & Second Thrift Store

Imagine the North Land at First & Second Thrift Store

Imagine The North Land at First & Second Thrift Store

Imagine The North Land at First & Second Thrift Store

Imagine The North Land at First & Second Thrift Store


6) Joy & Co Propane Tank 

Artist: Joi Electra

Created: 2011

Location: Behind Joy & Co

Description: The whimsical painted propane tank behind Joy and Co. is a partially completed work by Finland artist Joi Electra. She began painting the tank in 2011 in exchange for art supplies and classes at Joy and Co. For medical reasons the piece remains unfinished. The painted tank is in keeping with the theme of the backyard as a place of discovery and looking closely at things. The painting enhances the welcoming and active feeling of the space.


Propane Tank at Joy & Co


7) Moose Mural 

Artist: Brian Nieminen

Created: 2016

Location: The Sweetwater Co

Description: Mural artist Brian Nieminen, a retired firefighter from Thunder Bay, painted the moose mural on 8th North Broadway Art Gallery in 2016 (Now The Sweetwater Co). The moose represents the North Woods, the identity of this area and the people who live here. It draws attention to the gallery and not only represents what is sold there, but represents community identity.

Moose Mural at The Sweetwater Co


8) Mosaics at WTIP

Artist: Todd Sylvester

Created: 2009

Location: WTIP North Shore Community Radio 

Description: Mosaic artist Todd Sylvester created two mosaic panels to commemorate when local radio station WTIP began to broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One panel is a night scene with northern lights, and the other is a daytime scene with a bright sun. Each has a house with a view into the room with a radio playing music tuned to WTIP. Community members brought bits of pottery, glass, tile, stones, etc. to WTIP and Sylvester incorporated them into the work. The colorful panels depict the large landscape into which WTIP broadcasts. Everything was 100% donated, and the mosaic project was a community effort.

WTIP Mosaic

WTIP Mosaic



9) Our North Mural 

Artist: 4th and 11th Grade Students mentored by Karen Neal, Jeannie Wright, Mary MacDonald, Jana Larsen, Ann Mershon, and other volunteers 

Created: 2015

Location: Johnsons Foods 

Description: Our North, created and installed in the spring of 2015, is a 36 x 8-foot mosaic that depicts familiar and unique features of Cook County. It is the work of 4th and 11th grade students, mentors Karen Neal and Jeannie Wright, art teacher Mary MacDonald, 4th grade teacher Jana Larsen, Art’Round Town (ART) board member Ann Mershon and many adults from the community. It captures elements of the North Shore in an artistic, eclectic and whimsical way. The murals at the Cook County Whole Foods Coop inspired the Our North mural project. When the new Coop building was built, the murals on the old building could not be saved.  Art’Round Town used funds collected for saving the Coop murals and raised additional funds for the project in the community. Students and contributors are listed on a plaque next to the mural.

In addition to Art ‘Round Town funds, this project was funded through grants from The Northland Foundation, ISD 166 Education Foundation, Cook County Tourism Association, Sawtooth Mt. Clinic Moving Matters, GM Lions and Lioness Club and Thrivent Financial.

Our North Mural Johnsons Foods


11-14) Saethre Murals 

Artist: Lyle Saethre

Created: 2003-2004

Locations: Bill Bally Blacksmith Shop, South of the Border Cafe, and The Beaver House 

Description: Lyle Saethre, a local retired electrician, found his passion painting large murals around Grand Marais. In a 2011 video available on YouTube (, he explains his interest in showing how things used to look, to preserve a bit of history and brighten things up.  He painted a little and talked a lot to interested passersby. Saethre developed his childhood interest in painting, first by taking classes in Texas during the winters and then from Nita Anderson at the 8th Street Broadway Gallery. He traded electrical work there for painting lessons.

Saethre’s murals are found on the garage doors at Bill Bally Blacksmith shop (2003), a retaining wall below South of the Border Café, and both the south and north sides of the Beaver House (2003 & 2004 respectively). The pieces are expansive with simple renditions of historic viewpoints of Cook County, Isle Royale and the North Shore. They have character and reflect the interests and experience of the artist.

Bally Blacksmith Saethre Mural S.Bally General Blacksmithing (11)

S. Bally General Blacksmithing S. Bally General Blacksmithing (11)

Saethre Mural Beaver House Beaver House (13)

Saethre Mural Beaver House Beaver House (14)