John Biggers SEED Project - CODAworx

John Biggers SEED Project

Submitted by Christopheraaron Deanes

Client: City’s Art in Public Places program of the Department of Arts & Cultural Affairs, MNDOT (MInnesota Department of Transportation), Department of Public Works, and the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center

Location: Minneapolis, MN, United States

Completion date: 2023

Artwork budget: $534,000

Project Team

Lead Metal Enamel Fabricator

Christopheraaron Deanes

Host Studio and manager of Project

Chicago Fire Art Center


The John Biggers Seed Project is a public art and collaborative design effort engaging renowned African American artists in mentoring emerging artists in placemaking by: educating them about African American art and community history and creating a sense of place that speaks to the Minneapolis Northside.

John Biggers, a major African American artist of the twentieth century, created the design for Celebration of Life. He died shortly after it was completed. Celebration of Life was installed on a MNDOT sound wall at the intersection of Olson Memorial Highway and Lyndale Avenue South, adjacent to the new proposed public art location. It was destroyed along with the sound wall by the City of Minneapolis in 2000 under a permit with MNDOT to make way for a new housing project, Heritage Park.

Seed will create a vibrant link between the Northside and Downtown by transforming the Olson Bridge spanning I94 and replacing the existing chain link with a new artistic railing. The base railing, which will be galvanized steel, has been designed and engineered by SRF Consulting Group. Inserted into the railing will be over 300 enamel panels, designed and fabricated by the Seed artists. The enamel coating and design will be applied on both sides of steel panels.


Seed honors John Biggers, a major 20th-century African-American artist. Biggers designed the “Celebration of Life” mural, which was on a nearby sound wall. Many of the artists now involved in the Seed project had painted the mural. The mural and sound wall were destroyed in 2000 for the construction of the Heritage Park housing project. Biggers died in 2002.

Seed is a collaborative design effort of 15 local black artists. Artists Ta-coumba T. Aiken and Seitu Jones lead Seed. The design was developed collectively with artists Mica Lee Anders, Sayge Carroll, Roger Cummings, Patrick Cunningham, Angela Davis, Loretta Day, Christopheraaron Deanes, Adrienne Doyle, Jeremiah Bey Ellison, Jordan Hamilton, Chris Harrison, Esther Osayande and Chris Scott. Willis Bing Davis and Jon Onye Lockard, colleagues of John Biggers, advised on the project. Lockard died in 2015.


This process was quite extensive. The original 14 artists involved developed and designed the sketches and drawings necessary for the launch which turned into training by some of the world's most renowned Metal Enamelists, Barbara Minor and Dave Berfield. Seven of teh 14 artists were extensively trained to work through this process as fabricators of the project. Christopheraaron Deanes led the fabrication team in mixing enamel colors, firing enamel works, scheduling artists and teams, supporting artists with invoicing, checking and fixing mil thickness with gauge, storage of works, and supporting the design and fixes to pieces damaged as well as finding creative ways to help artist fabricate in their styles