The Honoured Walleye

Articles on manhole covers keep on popping-up. More and more people are noticing the design underfoot as they walk their city streets. 

Rob Turner writes on the subject of cities much smaller projects that make a big impact in his “Cover Art” article.

“As a visitor to a new city I’m always intrigued to discover and surprised by fantastic cast-iron works of art—they delight me.” 

This article lists wonderful photos of "manhole covers that left their mark in New York City". 

Andy Sturdevant lists stunning manhole cover designs in Minneapolis in his article “Minneapolis' sense of itself revealed in artist-designed manhole covers.” Andy helps us discover the reason for the covers by describing them and their location in Minneapolis. Andy directs us to a few of Kate Burke’s manhole cover designs. 

I received a wonderful email with a nice surprise this week, a sequence of photos showing the steps in the creation of Kate’s walleye manhole cover design. 

Have you ever wondered why you didn’t bring that darn camera with you? Kate wished she had a camera to document her first experience at the foundry eight inches deep in black sand staring at the wheel-a-matic sandblaster. 

We can’t turn back time and document those fantastic moments of creation, but we can remember them as did Kate.

It was a sandblasting booth that had a huge turntable inside a metal box. As I stood in the sand, the guys opened the door to the first cast manhole cover, which was the walleye. As the turntable rotated the silhouette of the cover [emerged] out of the darkness. It was glowing red in the center as they had just cast it and it was still hot. It was jaw-dropping. 

Below is Kate Burke's production process for the Walleye manhole cover for Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis: 

© 2016 Kate Burke, a quick sketch to help with the design process

© 2016 Kate Burke, a quick sketch to help with the design process

© 2016 Kate Burke, the sketch created for the carving of the design

© 2016 Kate Burke, the sketch created for the carving of the design

© 2016 Kate Burke, the actual drawing used to cut the design—many copies were made to prevent the loss of image detail when transferring the drawing 

© 2016 Kate Burke, the actual drawing used to cut the design—many copies were made to prevent the loss of image detail when transferring the drawing 

© 2016 Kate Burke, these recent photos of the finished cut pattern show its resilience after two dozen casts. It held up well and is still beautiful 

© 2016 Kate Burke, these recent photos of the finished cut pattern show its resilience after two dozen casts. It held up well and is still beautiful 

© 2016 Kate Burke, altered photo of the original photo by Will Crain, manhole cover installed at Nicollet Mall

© 2016 Kate Burke, altered photo of the original photo by Will Crain, manhole cover installed at Nicollet Mall

© 2016 Kate Burke, a rubbing from the original pattern above to create prints

© 2016 Kate Burke, a rubbing from the original pattern above to create prints


Need to get back to work and finish eleven new volumes of City Shields from my trip back to Canada. My residence and installation at Ming Studios will come soon enough.

In the meantime, go for a walk and discover your city.

© 2016 Kate Burke, installed Walleye manhole cover at Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota

© 2016 Kate Burke, installed Walleye manhole cover at Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Hail Minnesota!

I was downtown Ottawa, to deliver my volumes of City Shields to the National Gallery of Canada this summer when I noticed a manhole cover with a toilet in its design on Sussex Drive.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, this photo is an Ottawa maintenance frame S25 and toilet logo cover S24

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, this photo is an Ottawa maintenance frame S25 and toilet logo cover S24

Ever wonder what or why sewer covers have certain designs like a toilet? I wonder as well! 

The city of Ottawa, Ontario, has several manhole covers with a fish design. Evan Thornton in his article The Sign Of The Fish: Ottawa Sewer Grates of December 2009 found that Ottawa, lets its residents figure out the significance of the decorated storm sewer drains for themselves.

I guess we will not easily have an answer to our question.


When one has access to the artist who designs the covers for a city, we can get an answer to the reason behind the designs?

Kate Burke designed manhole covers for the City of Minneapolis back in 1992. These manhole covers were part of 75 cast iron manhole covers created as one of seven other art projects for the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Kate explains the development of Hail Minnesota installed before computers and digital cameras!  

I worked with Craig Amundson from BRW Architects to evolve the ideas and designs.  As the first ones he chose not only had a natural theme but were, also, state symbols. I evolved further designs from there. I designed for the state bird, tree, flower, grain, etc. In the end I titled the project with the state motto, “Hail Minnesota”.
It took at least a month to create each hand cut pattern. I evolved a unique technique of layering chip board to create detail and to guarantee a flat surface for a safe footfall. There are eleven different designs with each pattern cast seven times.

The City of Minneapolis is redeveloping Nicollet Mall, the location of Kate Burke’s designed manhole covers. Architect James Corner hired for the redesign, is the architec who designed the High Line, a beloved project in NYC. To prepare for this complete redevelopment the city assessed and archived the eight artworks originally installed. The manhole covers rated well and people enjoy them. Their condition and maintenance care are easy.

To view these fantastic cover designs in person, one will have to wait for the covers to be removed from storage and reinstalled when the Mall is rededicated in the future. Millions of people pass over Nicollet Mall yearly, but ME, Louise, never knew of them when I visited Minneapolis, two years ago. It is worthwhile to call a city before visiting and asking questions on the project you might be doing.

Take a look at these stupéfiant (amazing) manhole covers!

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward,  Hail Minnesota  design by Kate Burke—image 1 APPLES and detail; image 2 NORWAY PINE and detail; image 3 TIMBER WOLF and detail; image 4 LOON and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward, Hail Minnesota design by Kate Burke—image 1 APPLES and detail; image 2 NORWAY PINE and detail; image 3 TIMBER WOLF and detail; image 4 LOON and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward,  Hail Minnesota  design by Kate Burke—image 1 WILD RICE and detail; image 2 WHEAT and detail; image 3 CORN and detail; image 4 LADY SLIPPER and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward, Hail Minnesota design by Kate Burke—image 1 WILD RICE and detail; image 2 WHEAT and detail; image 3 CORN and detail; image 4 LADY SLIPPER and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward,  Hail Minnesota  design by Kate Burke—image 1 OATS and detail; image 2 WALLEYE and detail; 4 NORTHERN PIKE and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward, Hail Minnesota design by Kate Burke—image 1 OATS and detail; image 2 WALLEYE and detail; 4 NORTHERN PIKE and detail


Last April, I introduced large sized artists’ books, included in these posts was Alex Appella’s book, The János Book

This year, Alex had a lovely experience publishing her book as a Spanish independent trade edition in Argentina. The János Letter / Después la carta sells for the low price of $39.99. The János Book is available on Amazon, with good reviews. Enjoy a free PDF of this book!


Are you getting ready for Christmas? Are you looking for beautiful and unique decorative boxes to offer someone special? Look no further. My decorative boxes are a great gift for anyone who loves to store small items, special trinkets, keepsakes or jewelry.

For the purchase of my hand made boxes visit my website or email me directly.

Have a great week!

Discovering!

I’m in a conundrum these days! Do I continue my art work or prepare the next 10 years of my life. In, the meantime, my project The incessant Journey is as you have noticed taken over my life. Just like an obsession that won’t let go. Manhole covers are up and down and all around me. 

I’m discovering more and more artists who create using manhole covers as their muse. I received an email from Will Karp who occupies most of his time photographing and creating art with photographs of manhole covers.

Similar to my preocupation, Will has collected hundreds of images of manhole covers on his travels from the American Southwest to the Middle East. 

Awarded first prize at the Santa Fe Arts Commission in 2011, his composition of "Manhole Covers of Santa Fe” heightened his passion for manhole cover art.

I continue to wonder who’s behind the designs of manhole covers with intricate three dimensional motifs comprising of grids, concentric arcs and circles, cross hatching, insignias, and other geometric shapes. The multitude and variety of designs produced is staggering. Not only do the covers themselves offer an eyeful, but the colors and textures of the surrounding pavement whether pebbles, bricks, cobblestones, grass, dirt or asphalt, create a unique canvas for each cover.

Different mediums including book arts, printmaking, magnets, posters, and large installations are used in Will’s work. His latest creation is a book entitled Manhole Mania, A Tribute To Ground Art

Will, hopes that each set of pages that unfolds reveal a refreshing way to appreciate and see the artfulness of utility covers that are right under our feet for us to enjoy, if only we knew it.

© 2016 Will Karp, compositions using 16 photos of New Mexico

© 2016 Will Karp, compositions using 16 photos of New Mexico


Searching through the internet for others with a penchant towards the ground, I have found other artists who design intricate manhole covers for their cities.

Nancy Blum designed the City Light, City Bright manhole cover in 2001, in which the flowers represent the city and the electric pattern in the background represent the utility side of manhole covers.

© 2016 Nancy Blum, City Light, City Bright

© 2016 Nancy Blum, City Light, City Bright


In 1990 The City of Minneapolis reached out in the artist community to create artwork for Nicollet Mall in Downtown Minneapolis. 

Kate Burke commissioned by the city to create manhole covers designs to replace the covers over 13 city blocks around the Nicollet Mall. There are 11 different designs which commemorate the state designations and other icons of the state. Included are the state flower, fish, tree, bird, grain, fruit; and the grains. These manhole covers are absolutely gorgeous. They are a must see. I hope I can go trough Minneapolis again and add these to a second volume of Minnesota.

An in-depth dialogue with Kate will be part of another post later in the year.


Continuing with my conundrum, I need to figure out what to do with my life—an incessant journey on its own. Time goes by fast and work is slow these days, I need to get back to what is important. The first issue is to get my printers working after 3 months off. Wish me luck and hope you find your own purpose in life, go DO.