Just as a mason builds a wall brick by brick, the Twin Cities artist known as Wacso is building a portrait of his community sketch by sketch.
Wacso’s pen name is an acronym of what he does: Walkin’ Around, Checkin’ Stuff Out. The vignettes and life moments he captures are fleeting; his art endows them with permanence.
“For me it’s about collecting things that won’t be there forever,” Wacso said. “I like restaurants, I like to draw restaurants. And unfortunately, many of the restaurants I’ve drawn aren’t around any longer.”
“Some people think I’m crazy to draw all the bricks. People used to make buildings with bricks. They’re beautiful and they’re going away,” he said. “For me, it’s about documenting things that might not be there any longer.”
Wacso, who works in a creative profession, prefers to keep his real name under wraps. “I don’t want it to be about me,” he said. “I want it to be about this idea of getting out and seeing cool things.”
A few weeks ago, Wacso gave us our first illustrative tour around the Twin Cities. Now he’s gives us another.
Mickey’s Diner: “Nothing beats a little late night dinner action. Eggs over easy, toast and Mickey’s famous Potatoes O’Brian…and a bowl of their bean soup…and maybe a malt…but that’s all.”
Coolest Block in the Twin Cities: “They didn’t even need the whole block to get that title…a flower shop, a retro soda fountain, a bowling alley with a bar and a Nook for killer burgers? That’s some one-stop shopping right there.”
Oldster Out for a Stroll: “He doesn’t need no stinkin’ Lark, or a wheelchair, or a walker…he’s out gettin’ it done with a simple cane and a bunch of determination. I hope I’m still out puttin’ on the miles when I’m his age.”
Sunset Grain Belt: “I can’t get enough of this building…by far one of the coolest pieces of architecture in Minneapolis. I remember loving this place even as a little kid. It looked like some crazy factory that Willy Wonka might have had. They used to have a working fountain out front that was also on their bottles and can, and I remember thinking how cool it was that they made the beer from that water.”
Icehouse: “Years ago the Icehouse was just that…a place to house ice. They used to cut blocks of ice off the frozen lakes and store it in this building and the super tall building next to it (which is now an indoor rock climbing wall). Now it’s a fancy bar/restaurant/music venue and before that it was a sound stage for shooting films and commercials…I was on many shoots in that space over the years. It’s cool to see what it’s become now.”
World Street Kitchen: “Another food truck that made the jump to a sit down restaurant, and judging from the fact that the first time I tried to go they were closed because they sold out of food, I’d say it’s going pretty well for them. It’s much deserved…the food I had was fantastic. The rice bowl in particular was awesome…although I’d pass on the “secret sauce” they use…the food is so good on its own it doesn’t need a secret sauce.”
Back in Time: “I love finding pockets in old neighborhoods where it feels like time stood still and it could still be in the 1960s or 50s or whenever. This block in St. Paul is like that…TV repair? …The business is closed now, but I’d like to think sitting in that shop is an old dude waiting for the next TV repair to come through the door.”
Flat-Tops: “Not too many of these old school barber shops left. Wow, the stories those old barber chairs could tell.”
BJ’s Liquor Lounge Dancing: “If a night of drinks and dancing is what you have in mind for you and the missus when you see the BJ’s sign lit up, you’re in for a rude awakening. They don’t mean dancing…they mean “dancing.” The kind of dancing that happens with folded one dollar bills lined up at the edge of the stage…not that I would know. They even serve Heggies frozen pizza…or so I’ve heard.”
Little Free Library: “These little wood structures have turned up all over the city. They are filled with books and act like little libraries. See a book, take a book…have a book, leave a book. How cool is that?”
Oldsters & Donuts: “I saw a whole bunch of oldsters hit this old school bakery, and I’m going with the secret to a long and active life is donuts.”