In this week’s City Perspectives, Eric Mueller (@ericmueller) invites us to discover his home city of Minneapolis, Minnesota: warm; friendly; accessible; all-American.
How long have you lived in your city? What is your profession?
I’m a Minneapolis native; other than a few years here and there, I’ve lived here my whole life. My career has been as a producer for film, television, and advertising, but I left my job last fall to pursue photography full time.
If you could capture the essence of your city in one word, what would it be and why?
Accessible, and by that I mean that a very good life is easily accessible in Minneapolis: it’s affordable and easy to live here; we’ve got great access to lakes, parks and nature; we have access to a vibrant arts scene; and people are very friendly and helpful. Everything and everyone feels easily accessible, which makes it easy to have a full, rich life.
How would you describe the locals in your city?
We Minnesotans are a strange breed. We’re all really nice and helpful, but also a bit reserved. We’ll wake up at 5:30 to snow-blow our neighbors’ sidewalks, but we’ll probably be a bit shy to ask them over for dinner until we get to know them better. There’s a huge respect for common courtesy and the greater good of the whole, but we sometimes hold back a bit on interpersonal relationships. That said, once we’re friends, we’re loyal for life.
Describe the first place you’d bring an out-of-town guest. Why would you take them there before anywhere else?
There are blue signs when you enter Minneapolis welcoming you to the City of Lakes. I almost always bring guests to Lake Calhoun, which I consider Minneapolis’s living room. You’ll see people sailing, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming there; or if it’s winter you’ll see ice fishing and snow sailing or kiting. In any season, you’ll always see people walking, running and bicycling around the lake.
Which coffee shop(s) are your favorite to spend an afternoon catching up on work or people watching?
I’m fortunate to live in Uptown, where I can walk to a dozen great coffee shops in just a few minutes. I love Canteen, Lucia’s, and Bull Run, but my absolute favorite is Patisserie 46. One of the drinks we have here in Minneapolis is a Miel, which is a latte with honey and spices. The ones at Patisserie 46 are the best (plus they have amazing pastries).
What is one walk or walking route that you would recommend taking?
I’d recommend the Mills District around St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. Minneapolis exists because this natural waterfall provided power for lumber and flour mills; in the late 19th/early 20th century, Minneapolis was the flour milling capital of the world, creating the great brands of General Mills and Pillsbury. So when you go the falls, you’re going to the heart of the city. There’s a lot to photograph around the falls, too, like Nicollet, Island, Gold Medal Park, the Guthrie Theater, and a number of handsome bridges.
And your favorite place for an outdoor run?
I live right on the Midtown Greenway, which is a biking/pedestrian path that runs through the heart of South Minneapolis. I run on that over to the Chain of Lakes—Calhoun, Harriet, Cedar and Isles—which is great because you can easily do a 3-mile run or a 15-mile run by making various loops. You’re on segregated running paths the whole time, plus it’s beautiful and the people watching is fantastic. I can’t tell you how many of my photos come from a quick stop during one of my runs.
Is there a tourist attraction that even locals (perhaps secretly) love? What is so special about it?
The Guthrie Theater, designed by Jean Nouvel, is an amazing space that everyone loves to visit; many people go there even if they’re not seeing a play. Most beloved is the lobby for the black box theater, nicknamed the “Amber Room,” for its distinctive floor-to-ceiling yellow glass. There are some killer views up there, and it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll get a great photo while you’re in that space.
What’s the best season to visit your city in and why?
Autumn is my favorite time of year here. The days are crisp and sunny, making hiking and running a delight. Nights are cool, and you get to reunite with your favorite sweaters and jackets again. Honeycrisp Apples are back on the trees, and the breweries start serving some darker beers. And the fall colors are just insane; this last autumn was the most beautiful I’ve ever experienced.
How do you think that the beat or style of the city has informed your style as a photographer?
Minneapolis has a lot of parks, substantial green space and lakes. It also has a bustling downtown core with glassy skyscrapers. I tend to go out looking for photos as part of my everyday routine, so the natural and built landscapes of the city have made me appreciate both landscapes and urban subjects. Sometimes I’ll post multiple shots of Skyways and parking ramps, and the next week it’ll be all lake sunsets.