Northern Wilds Magazine
Greg Mueller uses new and repurposed materials to create sculptures and public art pieces of all sizes and scopes, from play structures to benches to bike rakes. This piece, Street Seat, can be found in Bloomington, Minn. | SUBMITTED

Greg Mueller: Sculpture Artist

When people hear the word “art,” what often comes to mind first is something to look at, whether it’s paintings that line gallery walls or photographs that decorate our homes. But in many cases, art is not just something to be viewed, but something to use and interact with. Greg Mueller is a North Shore sculptor who creates works of art that are not only made to be beautiful, but to be functional parts of our cities and lives.

Although Mueller never thought he would move to the North Shore, he has made his home in Lutsen for the last five years. A Minnesota native, he grew up in Mankato before attending art school and spending 15 years teaching at colleges across the country. Mueller’s eventual move north had its beginnings when he apprenticed with renowned sculptor Paul Granlund, who had a home in Schroeder. (Granlund’s bronze statues can be found throughout the country, including at the Johnson Heritage Post in Grand Marais.) It was while visiting the North Shore with Granlund that Mueller met Lutsen sculptor Tom Christiansen—Christiansen operated Last Chance Fabricating for nearly 30 years before Mueller purchased the studio in 2018, which is now Mueller Studio.

“After teaching for 15 years, I took the leap to move here and start my own business, and I’ve been in Lutsen ever since,” Mueller said.

Much of Mueller’s work is public art commissioned by cities, including this play sculpture in Fergus Falls, Minn. near the city’s bike trail. | SUBMITTED

At his studio, Mueller uses new and repurposed materials to create sculptures and public art pieces of all sizes and scopes, from play structures to benches to bike racks. Fascinated by how people move through spaces, Mueller had considered studying architecture before finding his niche as a sculptor. Although sculpture ended up being a better fit for him, his work still has an architectural essence of uniting beauty, space, and function. He cites the childhood experience as a recurring source of inspiration, often designing pieces that can be climbed or played on.

“I’m inspired by interaction and being in a public space, and creating things that people can explore, climb on, or sit on,” he said. “I love architecture, but it’s the spaces in between that intrigue me—places where people can gather and explore, and that’s where sculpture can really serve a social need.”

Much of Mueller’s work is public art commissioned by cities. Some of his works around the state include a play structure in Fergus Falls near the city’s bike trail, with swings suspended from large-scale bike wheels; “Street Seat” in Bloomington, whose repurposed street signs and porch-swing ambience invite pedestrians to slow down; and the Fire Station Plaza in Burnsville, which has many interactive pieces including a bench with a timeline of the fire department. Mueller is also the creator of the “Inspiration Exchange” at the Grand Marais Art Colony, made in collaboration with artist Amy Demmer. The Inspiration Exchange is a place where pedestrians can take and leave notes and objects of inspiration for one another.

Sculpture artist Greg Mueller. | SUBMITTED

A common thread in Mueller’s work is using reclaimed materials, such as fashioning bike racks out of old bike frames or out of former propane tanks. “I like taking old things and repurposing them and breathing new life into them,” he said.

Recently, Mueller has been busy with a project for the city of Jacksonville, Florida—a soccer park that will function like a life-size foosball table, where people can turn wheels to move balls around the field. He’s also working on a piece to transform a park in Terre Haute, Indiana—local children traced their handprints, which will be scanned into metal to make archways for a splash park.

“That project will take a year to finish,” Mueller said. “The timeline and scope of my projects can be really big, and they require collaboration with many others, whether that’s contractors or engineers. Not all artists like working like that—it’s not for everyone to have so many heads at the table. But I love working with other creatives and getting to investigate the minds of other professionals.”

After 15 years of teaching, Mueller is glad to have made the move to the North Shore and to be spending the second half of his career “in the trenches” of making and creating.

“I’m so grateful for the creative community in Cook County,” he said. “People are so supportive of each other up here, regardless of medium.”

For more information on Greg Mueller and his art, visit:

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