Transportation by Xavier Tavera
Location: 710 Hennepin Ave (Pantages Theatre)
Subject: Joe Hester, Metro Transit Driver
Few people know Hennepin Avenue the way Joe Hester does.
“The stuff you see out there on the streets, you can’t make up,” says Hester, who drives buses out of Metro Transit’s Heywood Garage.
Hester represents the transportation theme of “It’s the People,” a public arts project by Hennepin Theatre Trust. The project is comprised of nine large-scale banners displayed on buildings in the Hennepin Theatre District, and is inspired by the people whose experiences and stories create the unique vibrancy of Hennepin Avenue.
Hester says he often heads to Hennepin Avenue even when he’s off the clock.
“I love going down there late nights when I’m off work and just riding through, seeing diverse cultures and all the artwork on the buildings,” he says. “It’s beautiful down there. I never knew how beautiful Minneapolis was until I started working at Metro Transit.”
Hester’s 30-by-18 foot portrait hangs on the side of the Pantages Theatre. It was created by artist Xavier Tavera, who is best known for his nuanced portraits of members of the Latinx community. Tavera feels that exploring transportation is a key to understanding the heart of Minneapolis.
“The Twin Cities is a place of mostly cars and buses and light rail as opposed to walking, and Hennepin Avenue gives you that opportunity to interact, to see who’s out there, to have that human interaction,” says Tavera. “Getting to a bus, you have to have contact with people. Getting into Hennepin Avenue, you have to have contact with people.”
Tavera moved to the Twin Cities in 1996 and says he’s seen Hennepin Avenue continuously reinvent itself. He hopes this portrait project helps preserve a slice of life along the important Minneapolis artery.
“I always think taking a portrait is important, but in this case, it’s of the utmost importance now that’s it’s going to go through some transition with construction,” says Tavera, referring to an ongoing major reconstruction project on the avenue. “Another generation is going to pass. Hennepin Avenue is still going to be there. Maybe somebody can rescue this portrait and say ‘This is who we were then.’”