At their most complex, murals can strengthen the bonds between neighbors and awareness of community issues. At their simplest, they can brighten your walk to work. Many new large-scale artworks have appeared on buildings across the Twin Cities this summer, so we spoke with the artists who created them.
The six muralists featured here come from a variety of educational backgrounds and approach their work in different ways, working in media such as parachute cloth, aerosol, and mosaic. They shared some thoughts about their recent projects, and where you can find them. Four of these artists are participating in Midway Murals, a project aimed at revitalizing the Hamline Midway neighborhood by way of Snelling Avenue. The finished murals, produced in collaboration with the immigrant business owners who live and work in the area, will be officially unveiled at the Midway Art Festival this Saturday, August 29.
Birth of a New Day
Lead Artist: Yuya Negishi
Location: 689 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul
Part of Midway Murals
“We did four or five listening sessions in the neighborhood. We invited all the people in the community to them. I asked a bunch of questions, and came up with something based on that. I sketched scenery first; mountains and sunlight came up. Then I’m going to do a phoenix. I’d like to bring people together, have them get to know each other through my art.”
Also check out: An insane new mural from Negishi and a couple other artists that will be announced soon.
Celebrating Youth on the Northside
Lead Artist: Melodee Strong
Location: 2064 W. Broadway Ave., Minneapolis
“I suggested that with my connections in Northside I would arrange for these brainstorm sessions with youth in the community to help us generate what they want the mural to look like. We held sessions at [Plymouth Christian Youth Center] in their summer program, we held a session at Homewood Studios and the Capri Theater, and then we went to Sojourner Truth Academy. I’d say overall we probably worked with about 100 kids generating ideas. My interns and I collected all of those, and went through, found consistencies, and then we illustrated based on the feedback we got from the kids and created the mural design that you see today.”
Also check out: Charles Caldwell, the artist behind the iconic Welcome to North Minneapolis mural on the side of the Fourth Street Saloon, is working on another piece at the corner of West Broadway Avenue and Logan Avenue North, just a couple blocks down from Strong’s mural.
Sing a Song of Uptown
Lead Artist: Greta McLain
Location: 1422 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
“There’s something I think that people don’t fully understand about all of these [murals]: that fundraising and finding people who will back these projects is a full-time job. We want this to be a mural movement, but in order to do that you have to have this super financial hustle. I would love for someone to be like, 'There should be an organization where these are funded,' because it is a big job to also have to raise funds for your own work. That’s a piece that, hopefully, with all the work that we’re doing, will start to change as people start to value this and see this as something that is making changes in our visual landscape and the way that we see and feel in our community.”
Also check out: McLain is part of the Midway Murals project (512 Snelling Ave. N.) and also unveiled a mural on the Folwell Performing Arts Magnet School in Minneapolis last week. She has been able to complete three massive murals this summer thanks to her Good Space Murals team of Claudia Valentino, Jacqui Rosenbush, Samie Johnson, Lamia Abukhadra, Vivi Grieco, Bernardo Reyes, and Eamonn McLain, as well as many wonderful interns.
Lead Artist: Eric Mattheis
Location: 638 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul
Part of Midway Murals
“I wanted to sit and chill and think of something that would be really eye-catching on [Snelling] Avenue. Actually, I had a dream about it. It was this weird galaxy dream with celestial bodies representing different cultures and communities. All of them are made of the same star stuff, but they are still brilliantly different in their physics, colors, and content. At the same time they all exist in this giant convergence of space. All of us are separate in our own way in our culture and community, but when we come together it creates this beautiful framework of peace.”
Also check out: Mattheis and Matt Wells, his collaborator on this mural, as well as the rest of their Rogue Citizen artists' collective, are working on Culture, a series of events that will bring together live painting, street art, music, and more.
Space & Time: B-Girl Be 10-Year Reunion Mural
Lead Artist: Joy E. A. Spika
Location: Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Other Lead Artists: Katrina Knutson and Leilani Mendoza
“We wanted to speak about gentrification, how the city has changed, and how Uptown in particular has changed so much over the last decade. It’s a commentary on what’s happened between the first and the last B-Girl Be and also the area around it and how there aren’t a lot of safe spaces for people of color, women of color, trans people, and queer people. There are a lot of areas where it feels uncomfortable for people to go into a space and be like, 'This is a space where I feel like I can be myself and I don’t have to have my guard up and it’s not just here for out-of-town upper-middle-class white people. In that Uptown space, where there are a lot of wealthier transplants, we wanted to show that there are a lot of grassroots organizations happening there as well [like Intermedia Arts].”
Also check out: Spika and her team for this mural, along with Andres Guzman and Chaka Mkali (better known as I Self Devine), recently finished a mural on the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder building (3744 Fourth Ave. S., Minneapolis).
Lead Artist: Lori Greene
Location: 555 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul
Part of Midway Murals
“The mural is going on an African market and the majority of the business owners are Ethiopian. [Berbere] is a spice blend used in the heart of Africa, so it’s not just Ethiopian but used in a number of different countries on the east coast of Africa.”
Also check out: Greene finished another mural earlier this summer across the street from Mosaic On A Stick, her shop a couple blocks down from Berbere on Snelling Avenue North and Lafond Avenue. She worked on that piece, Lift as We Climb, with boys from the juvenile detention center Boys Totem Town.
Did a new mural pop up this summer in your neighborhood that you think is really cool? Let us know about it in the comments.