Colors on concrete: How Adam Turman paints Minnesota’s urban canvas

A man stands next to a large mural
Adam Turman poses for a photo next to a recent mural he painted for Corsa Apartments next to Steel Toe Brewing in St. Louis Park, Minn. on July 18.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

In the hot sun of a construction site in St. Louis Park, Adam Turman completes his most ambitious project yet — a 220-by-40-foot mural.  

The charismatic artist, known for his vibrant and distinct style, has designed pieces for some of Minnesota's iconic locations, including Target Field in Minneapolis and the Spam Museum in Austin, Minn.  

Now he pauses, mid-answer to a question, to allow a construction machine to drive past. 

“I'll let it go for a second ... the work doesn't stop!” Turman says in a put-on gruff voice, smiling.  

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For the last few weeks, Turman has built a rapport with those on the construction site.  

The enormous mural depicts people in motion. It covers much of the parking ramp at the soon-to-open Corsa Apartments.  

The art shows his distinct style, defined by bright colors and hard black outlines that make them pop. His unique artistry has drawn numerous clients across the state.  

A man paints a mural
Adam Turman adds several finishing touches on his Corsa Apartments mural.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

“I’ve always been into just painting things that are just fun,” Turman said.  

His boyish joy for painting has been a companion since his youth. This led to him graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1999 with a degree in graphic design, after which Turman began a career in interactive design.  

It wasn’t until fellow artists showed him the ropes of using spray paint and paint sprayers that he transitioned into mural painting, starting with a small piece in St. Paul.  

“I learned a lot even on just that little pro bono job,” Turman remembers. “You know, learning what paints are good, what paints are garbage, how to get something up on the wall quickly, and work efficiently.” 

Detail of a mural painted on a parking garage
A detail of Adam Turman’s latest mural.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

His next project ended up landing him a long-time partnership. “That was it, at surly brewing,” Turman explained. 

While his first mural at Surly Brewing’s old plant in Brooklyn Center was painted over, visitors to the Minneapolis brewery can still admire his handiwork.  

“He's the guy I've definitely enjoyed working with the most over the years,” says Omar Ansari, founder and president of Surly Brewing Company. “Which is maybe why we keep going back to the well.”

Over the years, Turman has designed bottle labels, murals and posters for Surly. He’s been asked to mark some important moments in Surly’s history. When the brewery was voted the best brewery in America in 2007 by Beer Advocate Magazine, Ansari turned to Turman to design the commemorative poster.   

A colorful taproom interior1
Adam Turman has designed many pieces for Surly Brewing, including the mural in its Minneapolis taproom.
Jacob Aloi | MPR News

“I had a bunch of ideas that I thought would be good,” Ansari says. After Turman took the ideas into consideration, he came up with his own concept.  

“He made it work … I don't think what I came up with probably would’ve worked,” Ansari admits.  

Turman’s collaborative spirit, paired with his creativity, has kept the artist booked. His latest project is for The Opus Group, a commercial real estate company. It came about after the developers got a feel for his energy.  

“Opus is really focused on the communities that we build in, and how can we just encompass all of the values of the neighborhood,” says Anna Bode, a senior development manager with Opus. 

“Adam is local, he lives not far from the project, and people really respond well to him. And just feeling his passion and excitement for the project, it was a no-brainer to go with Adam.” 

Turman said the excitement of working with new people on new ideas keeps him picking up the paintbrush.  

“You just don't know who's going to knock on your door,” says Turman  

“It's just so cool. I love it.” 

A man stands next to a large mural
Adam Turman poses for a photo next to a his recent mural.
Ben Hovland | MPR News
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.