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Minnesotan lives every child's dream; he makes dinosaurs

Tim Quady's Blue Rhino Studio ships prehistoric creatures to museums around the world.

EAGAN, Minn. — The nondescript concrete building in Eagan will never be mistaken for a work of art.

At least not on the outside.

But Tim Quady has seen the wide eyes of unsuspecting FedEx drivers who’ve stepped inside. 

“’What is this place?’” said Quady, mimicking their reaction.

“This place” is the answer to every STEM student who’s ever asked an art major, “What are you going to do with that?”

More specifically, “this place” makes dinosaurs.

“I love my job,” Quady says, as a woolly mammoth and Tyrannosaurus rex tower over him.

Credit: Boyd Huppert/KARE 11
Tim Quady is surrounded by prehistoric creations made by his company, Blue Rhino Studio.

The one-time Gustavus Adolphus art major has bridged the gap to prehistoric science.

“This is this is Apatosaurus, I think 83 feet long — tip of its mouth all the way to the end of the tail,” Quady said as he played tour guide to visitors.

To walk into Quady’s Blue Rhino Studio is to discover the origins of the origins.

Here, a dozen artists and, as Quady quips, “$4000-worth of tools from Home Depot,” create dinosaurs as realistic as humanly possible.

And why?

“Wonder, awe, terror,” laughs George Weiblen, the scientific director at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum.

The Bell wanted more than woolly mammoth bones when it opened its new building in 2018.

So, the Bell rang Blue Rhino.

Credit: Devin Krinke/KARE 11
George Weiblen, science director at the Bell Museum, stands in front of a woolly mammoth created by Blue Rhino Studio.

A lot of museums do.

Blue Rhino’s prehistoric animals have been shipped to museums around the world.

“This one’s in Kuwait,” says Quady, scrolling through a Blue Rhino portfolio. “This one’s in Panama.”

The Ancient Ozarks Heritage Museum in Missouri and the Field Museum in Chicago are among the American museums that display Blue Rhino creations. 

Quady holds up a clay model that served as the starting point for the massive Apatosaurus taking shape under his 20-foot ceiling.

“One inch to the foot,” he says referencing the model’s scale. “Everything here will be exactly what’s there,” he says, looking up at the dinosaur nearing completion.  

Credit: Devin Krinke/KARE 11
Tim Quady holds a clay model of a dinosaur used to complete the Apatosaurus taking shape behind him

Not bad for an artist whose first project was a 5-foot lighthouse for a bar at MSP International Airport.

More bill-paying work followed with fabrications for the Mall of America’s Camp Snoopy, the Minnesota Zoo and a mini-golf course. 

Now, as Blue Rhino marks its 25th anniversary, the company has found its prehistoric niche.  

“I just think it’s fun to grow up to be the person you always hoped you could be,” Quady says.

That is, an artist employing other artists.

“My background is in fine arts,” says Mark Healy as he creates the ground for a diorama where dinosaurs will stand.

Credit: Devin Krinke/KARE 11
Kevin Beaudin glues epoxy skin on a Triceratops.

In a small room nearby, artists Maddy Dall and Beth Zaiken digitally paint murals, one of which will serve as a backdrop for two saber-toothed tigers.

Think of them as artists lending their old STEM student friends a hand.

“Typically, the scientists who know the most about something aren’t going to be the artistic people who can show it to you,” Quady says. “Our job is to talk to the experts and get what’s in their head out, so everyone can see it.”

A few feet away, artist Kevin Beaudin glues small pieces of epoxy skin on an emerging dinosaur.

“It’s a Triceratops puzzle,” he says grinning. “I feel pretty lucky, you know. I feel like I’m exactly the person I wanted to be when I was 6.”

At Blue Rhino, artists give life to science.

“I want to do stuff that matters,” Quady says. “When we’re done doing what we do and the visitors start coming, our work matters.”

Credit: Devin Krinke/KARE 11
Dinosaurs in various stages of completion at Blue Rhino Studio in Eagan, Minnesota.

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