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It’s the People —Clear Channel Outdoor Minneapolis

Sponsored by Clear Channel Outdoor Minneapolis and UBS Wealth Management USA

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Nikki McComb portrait of the silent heroes of gun violence prevention

Hennepin Theatre Trust unveils the 2020 season of It’s the People telling stories of justice, equity and empowerment



The multimedia public art installation, sponsored by UBS Wealth Management USA and Clear Channel Outdoor, features portraits by renowned Minnesota artists of the people in the Hennepin Theatre District


MINNEAPOLIS — Hennepin Theatre Trust, in partnership with UBS Wealth Management USA and Clear Channel Outdoor, today reveals the 2020 season of It’s the People, a public art initiative that is inspired by the people whose experiences and stories create the unique vibrancy of Hennepin Avenue. It’s the People is an outdoor gallery of fine art portraits by Minnesota artists capturing the heart and soul of Minneapolis’ most famous street. It’s the People is a way for the Trust to add vitality to the Hennepin Theatre District during the Hennepin Avenue construction project currently underway.

Now in its second year, It’s the People joins existing murals and public art projects in the District with captivating portraits shot by renowned Minnesota artists showcasing themes including identity, empowerment, trans equity, community outreach through violence prevention and social justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women.


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“Public art plays a crucial role in transforming the spaces outside our historic theaters into new stages as an outdoor gallery for everyone,” said Mark Nerenhausen, President and CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust. “Following last year’s inaugural launch, we have a new collection of art in the Hennepin Theatre District by compelling and thought-provoking artists with powerful stories.”

It’s the People will be displayed on downtown billboards in the Hennepin Theatre District and surrounding metro area locations, and later this year on large-scale banners adorning five downtown buildings. This year’s artists include Ryan Coit, Chad Germann, Kristine Heykants, Nikki McComb and Lucas Wells.

The artists for It’s the People possess the expertise in portrait photography meant to capture and highlight the people who make Hennepin Avenue a unique place. Joan Vorderbruggen, Director of Hennepin Theatre District Engagement for the Trust, said “These artists are not only providing breathtaking images, they’re telling amazing stories in a new way that will bring appreciation to the historic legacy of Hennepin Avenue.”

Artist Nikki McComb, who has a long history of combining art with violence prevention as a community leader, used her portrait as a way to showcase the unsung heroes on the front lines who work to end gun violence through community outreach. “Art, and the means of artistic process, can aid in trauma-informed care,” McComb said. For those who are affected by gun violence with friends or family members who have been shot or killed, McComb says that they don’t get to tell those stories without backlash or tears. “I use my skills to allow them to tell their stories through photographs.”

Vorderbruggen also emphasized that the need to instill a sense of pride and togetherness is vital during times of uncertainty and unrest. She said, “by adding a human element to urban environments, we’re making a creating a sense of community in physical spaces.”

Photographer Ryan Coit captures beauty in all types of individuals using the human form to express their sexuality and identity. “This was an opportunity for people’s voices to be heard,” said Coit. His work features trans-identifying service men who are accomplished LGBTQ community leaders in the Twin Cities. He hopes his contribution to It’s the People will help build a stronger community. “These giant portraits are going to be on the streets and it’s going to bring people’s stories to light.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Hennepin Theatre Trust and Clear Channel Outdoor again for It’s the People, which clearly reflects our aim of provoking thought while being inspirational,” said Stephen Glynn, Managing Director and Market Head for the Minnesota-Northern Plains Market for UBS Wealth Management USA. “This gallery helps define the Hennepin Theatre District as the gateway to Minneapolis at a time when the District is so important to the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota.”

UBS has a long history of supporting the arts as the global lead partner for Art Basel, which stages premier art shows for modern and contemporary art around the world. Their collection represents artists from more than 70 countries and is widely regarded as one of the most important of its kind.

“We are in unprecedented and challenging times,” said Glynn. “The pandemic has left many of us unsure and isolated. But art has a special way to connect us. And the portraits of these remarkable people remind us of the creativity, generosity and resiliency of our neighbors.”

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, this project will have three distinct phases of implementation including digital billboards, static billboards and large-scale banners on building sides in downtown Minneapolis. When CDC safety guidelines allow for social gatherings, the Trust will present a speaker series featuring each of the five artists, their subjects and community leaders that are relevant to each theme.

“Supporting the arts, education and cultural diversity is one of our core tenets, and we’re proud to stand in partnership with Hennepin Theatre Trust and UBS Wealth Management USA to support It’s the People,” said Daniel Ballard, Minneapolis Branch President of Clear Channel Outdoor. “It’s inspiring to see collaborations such as this positively affect the lives of those within our community.” Clear Channel Outdoor works to enhance shared environments by donating public service advertising displays to nonprofit and governmental organizations to drive awareness of the vibrant culture and economic vitality of downtown Minneapolis.

While the digital version of It’s the People launches on downtown billboards and surrounding metro area locations, large-scale banners featuring the artwork will hang at the following locations later this year:

  • 900 Hennepin (Lucas Wells)
  • The Saloon, 830 Hennepin Ave. (Ryan Coit)
  • The FAIR School, 10 South Tenth St. (Kristine Heykants)
  • City Center, 33 South Sixth St. (Nikki McComb)
  • The historic Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Ave. (Chad Germann)

“As we work with our stakeholders, partners and businesses along Hennepin Avenue during such a transformative time for the area, we’re committed to providing platforms to talented local artists that are representational and inclusive of the community that makes the place so uniquely special,” says Vorderbruggen. “It’s the People is a reflective celebration of the people that reside in the District along Minneapolis’ most famous street.”

Meet the Artists:

Ryan Coit is an international photographer exploring the human form with images that capture beauty in all types of individuals expressing their sexuality and identity. For the past several years, his life and photography has been influenced by his involvement in the LGBTQ community. Coit chose his subjects to represent the theme of trans equity because they are high ranking, accomplished, trans-identifying service men who are LGBTQ community leaders in the Twin Cities.

Chad Germann is an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Tribe of Minnesota and the Founder/CEO of Red Circle ad agency. His portrait is of a mother and daughter from Turtle Mountain displaying a defiantly regal pose of protection. The use of red in their clothing signifies social justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women, a topic Germann feels is too often invisible. He further connects this topic safety and equity conversations as there are a disproportionate number of Indigenous people receiving shelter services in downtown.

Kristine Heykants combines storytelling and art to find unearthed beauty in the familiar. She looks to the pioneering psychologist Carl Jung’s concept of archetypes to describe roles played by humans throughout history. Heykants led high school students from the FAIR School Downtown to explore identity through the lens of photography. She immersed them in the creative process by having them experiment with different personas through a mixture of visual research, reflection and technical instruction.

Nikki McComb is the Executive Director of Art is My Weapon: Creatively Addressing Violence. She has a long history of intersecting of art and violence prevention applying her artistic interests and skills working relentlessly in North Minneapolis and surrounding communities with youth, families and victims of gun violence. McComb chose her subjects because she felt strongly that violence prevention strategies, and the people on the front lines and behind the scenes, deserve recognition as silent heroes who show up every day to positively impact communities on Hennepin Avenue.

Lucas Wells is a performer driven by a love for the arts. He channeled that passion landing role in the Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening. While on tour, Wells performed in Minneapolis and despite sub-zero temperatures, the city ultimately captured his heart where returned several years later working as a photographer for the Spotlight Education program. He wanted to showcase the program’s past, present and future and choose three Asian American women highlighting their empowering inspiration with their high accomplishments and lasting impacts to Spotlight Education.

It’s the People is presented by Hennepin Theatre Trust with support from UBS Wealth Management USA and Clear Channel Outdoor.

To learn more about the artists, and to see their digital artwork, please visit HennepinTheatreTrust.org/ItsthePeople. #ItsThePeople


Hennepin Theatre Trust drives cultural and economic vitality in Minnesota through leadership of the dynamic Hennepin Theatre District in downtown Minneapolis and educational programming that reaches every area of the state. Its historic theatres — Orpheum, State and Pantages — and event center at 900 Hennepin Avenue light up Hennepin Avenue with top-tier entertainment, including the best of Broadway and a wide variety of arts programming. Hennepin Theatre Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Learn more at HennepinTheatreTrust.org.


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