A State of the Arts Mystery: can anyone explain?

Some one must know what this means, and so it’s time to turn to State of the Arts readers for suggestions.

First here’s the set-up.

The other morning I walked down Lyndale Avenue from where I had parked my car to do an interview a few blocks away at the Jungle Theater.

Just after crossing the bridge over the Greenway, I passed a young man who seemed engrossed in the wonders of a chain link fence surrounding a recently cleared site on the west side of the street.

I noticed he was carefully counting the links on the fence with one hand, while carefully holding a length of yellow yarn in the other.

He didn’t pay any attention to me. I walked past him in a matter of seconds, regarding him as one of the many people you see in the great gentle circus we call south Minneapolis.

Fast forward an hour and as I was returning to my car, I saw the young man was gone. He had however left a certain amount of yarn.

It was clear there was a pattern to the work, but because of the way the yarn blended in with the fence against the sky and the rough terrain behind, it was really hard to see what it was.

For a few moments I moved back and forth trying to find the right place from which to look.

It was a little tough because there was no sidewalk, and to get some distance from the fence it was necessary to step back into the street, which is always an adventure in the Mill City, even on side roads.

The artist clearly had some objective in mind, but he didn’t make it easy. Sometimes you have to struggle a little for art.

Finally, after much wandering to and fro, and a certain amount of crouching, I found the perfect viewing spot.

This is what I saw.

So the question is: what is it? Clearly there is a message here, but what does it mean?

And this is where you come in. If you have any thoughts about what this signifies, or, even better, some deep inside knowledge of the young man and his yarn, (in both senses of the word,) please feel free to share them below.

  • Blanche




    environmental tagging using found objects?!

    with a mathmatical twist…

    yellow ‘ribbon’? any military reference?

    global warming comment?

    discontent re:gentrification or development?

    The first three letters seem clear…how does it look as you drive by?

    no clues about the guy. Ask Scott, the local artist guy who always wears all white or all black and something in his curly hair.

  • Euan Kerr
  • Euan Kerr

    A Facebook friend suggests it’s a reference to the lettering on the Stevie Wonder album “Hotter than July”

  • There have been numerous pieces by this artist along Lyndale lately. Regardless of the message, all of them wonderful, non-destructive showings of street art that keep Minneapolis interesting. Have you seen the knitted signposts too? Amazing!

  • Euan Kerr

    Knitted signposts? No! What? Where? Other pieces? More details, please!

  • “HOTTER”

    A simple prayer for a day that finally feels like it should in the middle of July! 🙂

  • Blanche

    I’m going to drive by it today–I like the Stevie Wonder reference. Funny, Scott was nearby when you drove away…

  • Paul Spencer

    You’re assuming that the meaning is ‘front-loaded’. To paraphrase Louis Aragon: it means something in the end, not necessarily at the outset.

  • There was a knitted piece outside of Fuji-Ya for some time but I think it’s gone now. I’ll look around for pictures.

  • Euan Kerr

    My colleague Steve Mullis adds this image to the debate:


  • Fiona Mungavin

    I think this is great! Loving the fact that this is a gentle oddity that has grabbed and inspired the residents of Minnesota and created discussion and intrigue to such an extend that the yarn has become a yarn. Lovely.

  • Sara Kelley

    As a meteorologist, I must agree with one of the earlier posts. I see “HOTTER” and assume that the artist is sick of this cooler than normal summer.

  • Sara Kelley

    As a meteorologist, I must agree with one of the earlier posts. I see “HOTTER” and assume that the artist is sick of this cooler than normal summer.

  • Adam Mallory

    When I first saw it, I saw “HOT TEA”. Does anyone know what the building is behind the fence? The words look like an advertisement.

  • Maynard

    The first time I looked at the photo, I definitely thought it was HOTTER, and that it was a plea for hotter weather.

    Upon closer inspection, however, I am almost certain the artist intended the message to be HOT TEA.

    The reason is this:

    The letters in HOT are connected to each other, and the letters in TEA are connected to each other. But the two T’s at the center of the message are not connected! I believe the artist intentionally used this sepration to convey two distinct words. The fence post dividing the two words is on the vacant lot side of the chain link (as opposed to the sidewalk side of the chain link). The artist was working on the sidewalk side and could have connected the two T’s (thus making a single word) if he wanted to.

    Of course, if it is HOT TEA, Marianne’s original question of “what does it mean?” still lingers. Maybe it’s a warning related to the recent news that drinking hot tea can increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.

    Also, did anyone notice it looks like he left the skein of yellow yarn on the ground in front of the fence (below the word TEA)? Maybe he was hoping someone would use it to create another message somewhere else.

  • ashley

    This actually says ‘HOT TEA’. The artist is a friend of mine and has been doing these all over the city all summer. There are some fresh ones on the east side, can you find them??

  • Kevin Watterson

    He, who appears to be an Asian or hispanic guy in his twenties, put up the word in the fence across from my house earlier this spring. Now tonight he came along and made a picture of two ducks and then the word, which I’ve determined is “HOT TEA” because there’s a pole between the two words.

    I’ve also seen the words at Snelling/St. Anthony in St. Paul.

  • James Leaks

    Spotted one last summer on a fence in NE Minneapolis. Just spotted another two: one at Hennepin/Johnson and the other on Energy Park accross from Midway Stadium.

  • Matt

    I live in Northeast and have seen two this summer, one on a chain link fence between the two sides of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, another on the bridge for University that goes over the BNSF/Northstar tracks. Both were in the neon yellow-green spectrum.

    HOWEVER, a new one appeared Monday 9/13 downtown on the corner of Hennepin and 8th St., on the south side of the Schinders building. This one is not woven into or tied to a fence, but is against a window, held up by a series of suction cups. The yarn is neon pink.

    The one on the Hennepin Bridge only lasted a few days until it entirely disappeared, while the one on University faded away in strips. The suction-cup one has remained undisturbed for five days, which I think is remarkable given its location.

    I love them. And they are clearly “HOT TEA.”

  • Nathan