For many of north Minneapolis's disenfranchised citizens, promises made by city officials are ephemeral things that fade away into a fuzzy background of unanswered questions until, one day, they're broken. Such was the case this past December, when, to the shock of many north siders, city officials announced the impending demise of the mural that for six years had adorned the I-94 sound barrier on the corner of Lyndale Avenue North and Olson Memorial Highway. Designed by nationally acclaimed artist John Biggers, Celebration of Life's 24 brightly painted African folk-art panels stood as an ironically beautiful symbol of the wall between the community and the rest of the city. Of course, north-side residents were well aware that the Heritage Park redevelopment was afoot in the mural's vicinity, turning what was once a housing project into a new neighborhood of houses, tree-lined streets, and downtown views that required the removal of the wall. But the north siders also believed city officials when they'd stated that the mural would be relocated, not destroyed. At a December 29 memorial service for the artwork, city officials explained that not only would moving it prove more expensive than originally believed, but such a move would be likely to damage the artwork irreparably. The city proposed that an homage to the mural be created and displayed in the new neighborhood--an announcement that did little to quell the community's bitter disappointment and anger. Two days later, when the wrecking ball swung, the residents watched and wept.


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