Adam Turman’s ‘Deep Local’ Art is Big Business at the MN State Fair
If there’s one thing that sells well at the Minnesota State Fair, it’s Minnesota. And that’s artist Adam Turman’s specialty. “Paul Bunyon, the loon, hot dish, Split Rock Lighthouse—I love the iconic landmarks,” says Turman, whose bold illustrations can be found on glassware, towels, apparel and more. “I like taking things people in Minnesota know, and putting it out there to be like, I’ve got you.”
But a few years ago, Turman was ready to quit the Fair. He found himself spending more time boxing up art than actually making it and decided that wasn’t good for creativity, or his Adam Turman Artwork Co. business, which includes large scale custom projects, branding and illustrations, and art prints. Along came a licensing deal with a partner who took over the merchandising arm of the business, including Turman’s state fair shop. Suddenly, the artist had more time to draw, which meant more things to sell. This year—his sixth as a state fair vendor—Turman will triple this size of his booth on the upper level of the Grandstand to around 2,000 square feet.
On Episode 118 of By All Means podcast, we catch Turman between the completion of his largest mural to date, a 220-foot by 40-foot scene on the side of a parking ramp at the new Corsa apartments in St. Louis Park, and preparations for his largest Fair showing ever.
There was a time, Turman reveals, when he dreamed of taking his art national, even international. Then he realized; “I am a Minnesota artist. That is what people know me for. I’ve got to embrace that. I’d rather concentrate on what I know and love, which is here, the state of Minnesota.”
He calls his perspective “deep local.” “There’s always a new way of trying to communicate what Minnesota is to people,” he says.
Turman’s 2023 annual State Fair screen print will feature some of his most iconic characters riding in a Skyride gondola. Buy it on a t-shirt, mug, or tea towel at his State Fair booth, along with a new Pop Art collection that he says hints at Minnesota nostalgia.
“We only get four months of summer-ish weather,” Turman says of the Minnesota passion for Minnesota. “We have to celebrate.”
There’s just one Minnesota State Fair icon that eludes the artist: he’s never met Martha Rossini Olson of Sweet Martha’s cookies. “I need to meet her,” he says, the wheels already churning with the next art-meets-commerce idea, “how cool would it be to do a limited-edition cookie pail?”
Stay tuned: Turman plans to work on a new State Fair-themed piece at his booth throughout the Fair. Visitors can register to win the original art on the last day.
For more news, tips and insider advice on everything to do, see and eat at the Minnesota State Fair, visit Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.