The mural depicts what local youth love about living in their neighborhood—nature, playing outside, and the annual May Day Parade.
The mural depicts what local youth love about living in their neighborhood—nature, playing outside, and the annual May Day Parade.
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Owned and operated by musicologist Mark Trehus, Treehouse Records has been a cultural institution of the Whittier neighborhood since 2001. The shop, located on the busy corner of 26th Street and Lyndale Avenue, attracts record collectors from across the Twin Cities. However, its prime location has also served to attract vandals who were repeatedly tagging the building with graffiti.

Looking for a creative way to prevent his building from being tagged—and wanting to create a new piece of public art before he retires this December—Trehus approached the Whittier Alliance about the possibility of creating a mural on the exterior of the building, incorporating a theme expressing harmonious diversity in the Whittier community. The resulting project was a collaboration between MCAD, the Whittier Alliance, and Treehouse Records, to create a new piece of community art celebrating the multiculturalism of Minneapolis’s most diverse neighborhood.

“The Treehouse mural did more than just beautify the neighborhood—this project was a shining example of how art can be used as a vehicle to instill pride in and connect a community.”

Led by Melodee Strong ’06, a team of MCAD interns conducted brainstorming sessions with youth who live in the Whittier and Phillips neighborhoods of Minneapolis. These sessions, held at Simpson Housing Services, Waite House, and Whittier Elementary, invited local youth to sketch out what they love about living in their neighborhood. Common items that the children listed included parks and gardens, parades, springtime, and playing outside.

In total, thirty-one local children and teens helped generate the ideas that were incorporated into the mural design. Over 90 percent of brainstorming session participants were children of color. Once the design team had conducted the brainstorming sessions, they reviewed the ideas and created a unified mural design that incorporated the children’s ideas and reflected the diversity of the kids who helped design the mural.

Treehouse Mural Sketch

The concept sketch for the Treehouse Mural incorporated the ideas from youth living in the Whittier and Phillips neighborhoods.


Once the design was approved by Treehouse Records, an outline of the sketch was placed on the wall and the community-at-large was invited to help paint the design during the Open Streets Lyndale event held in early June 2017. More than 170 people helped paint the mural during the event.

Paul Shanafelt, the community engagement manager for the Whittier Alliance, summed up his feelings on the project, saying, "The Treehouse mural did more than just beautify the neighborhood—this project was a shining example of how art can be used as a vehicle to instill pride in and connect a community. The entire crew at MCAD was an absolute joy to work with, and the Whittier Alliance will continue to help them orchestrate similar projects in the neighborhood. The Treehouse mural is a reflection of a Whittier arts community that is diverse, thriving and one of our biggest cultural assets."

As for Trehus, he’s happy to have helped create a new piece of permanent public art as a parting gift to the Whittier neighborhood. “This creative process has felt serendipitously beautiful. I hope the residents of Whittier love the mural as much as I do.”