An exterior view of the Shakopee Tunnel, which came to fruition under the guidance of Tony Stafki.


 Art is All Around

Community Mural Project Beautifies a Tunnel Previously Beset by Graffiti

Interior view of the tunnel, depicting the history and heritage of Shakopee.

There’s nothing like a community art project to make the people of a municipality feel bound together by a sense of pride and accomplishment. In Shakopee, Minn., such a project came to fruition under the guidance of muralist Tony Stafki, whose business is Wall Art by Tony in the Twin Cities.

The site of the project—Holmes Tunnel—was previously beset by graffiti. So the community, led by downtown business revitalization group Main Street Shakopee, decided to replace that undesirable art form with positive artistic renderings depicting the heritage and history of Shakopee. The group sponsored a contest to seek ideas for the mural, with students of Shakopee High School submitting the winning design. However, they still needed a professional muralist to turn their design into a work of art. “I took their basic idea and turned it into a full-scale mural,” Tony reports.

Tony working on the tunnel; his sister lent a hand.

Design elements depicted along the length of the 122-foot tunnel include bison, deer, an eagle, tepees, a steamboat, wildflowers, a giant oak tree displaying the city’s name as well as a depiction of Chief Sakpe of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Community volunteers helped paint the tunnel in the Fall of 2015, but Tony was at the center of the activity to ensure that the project came together cohesively and in keeping with the community’s vision.

“This was by far the biggest project I’ve ever done,” says Tony, who estimates the project encompassed more than 6,500 square feet. Those who walk through the tunnel are able to immerse themselves in the community’s history. The curved nature of the tunnel means that several elements of the mural, including sky elements, the leaves of the oak tree, and the majestic-looking eagle are directly overhead. In addition to the interior elements of the tunnel, the exterior entrances to the tunnel are colorfully rendered with depictions of the city from its Shakopee Mdewakanton roots on the south side and a modern-day rendering of the downtown area on the north side.

Shakopee financed the project through its design contest and a fundraiser. Local businesses donated paints and other materials that were used in the creation of the mural. Since the mural’s completion, the Holmes Tunnel is no longer a target for graffiti artists. Now, it’s a display of the truly transformative nature of art and a source of pride for the community. (See Related Feature About Tony's work: Larger Than Life.)

Above: Close-up of a "mural within the mural." Below: Inside the tunnel, an eagle soars.