Tapestry: How Does Art Transform Community?

Moira Villiard: Working From Within

Photo Ne-Dah-Ness Rose Greene

In the years that I have spent as a multidisciplinary artist, I have realized that my medium is space — space and people. With this realization, it has become easier for me to unpack what I am trying to do with my work in the community. My work is not necessarily an attempt at trying to “transform” so much as it is an effort to encourage community members to explore their stories and connections to one another. Working from within, it is easier for me to foster collective understandings of place and strive for shifts in power, culture, and behavior.

I have recently been involved in coordinating interactive mural painting experiences that uplift narratives outside of the mainstream. As someone who grew up on the rez [reservation] and who is constantly navigating my own experience of having mixed identities, my work will always uplift Indigenous history and teachings through imagery and land acknowledgement. I do not represent all Indigenous experiences — obviously, no one person can — but I hope to use my art to open space, deconstruct the notion of a single history of a place, and invite collaboration with people from all backgrounds to engage in the arts as public tools for discourse and positive change. artbymoira.com

Jamie Schumacher: Place

Photo Jamie Schumacher

I love to see visual art crafted by artists from a neighborhood, with input from residents and other constituents. That is the best public art, as it represents and connects to the people.

Public art can be transformative, especially when it is used cleverly and creatively to address needs. For example, artists in Cedar-Riverside Minneapolis created benches and placed them in an area known as “Edna’s Park.” It was a simple project, but those handmade benches activated the space. People sit and eat lunch there, and watch occasional pop-up music shows.

The nonprofit sector typically refers to financial wealth when it talks about wealth-building. I think a fuller definition of wealth includes more than money. It is also about clean water, air, affordable housing, educational opportunities, green space, and access to art and culture.

I want to help build understanding around the intersection of art, culture, and community — how art and culture are a critical part of well-being for both people and neighborhoods. jamie-schumacher.com

Lindsey Cherek Waller: Creating Worlds

“Pleasure,” 36”x36”x1”, acrylic on stretched canvas, 2021

I paint to create a queer, nonbinary world where pleasure can be experience beyond what capitalism currently allows.

I consider both the violence and the joy that come with being queer in a cis-hetero patriarchal world, as well as the imagination necessary to construct a new one.

The institutions we exist in were not build for queer people. Queer liberation has progress solely because its power in subcultures. Transformative change for queer folks has always been intersectional, low-fi, do-it-yourself. That is where art magic happens: at the roots.

In my own experience, art-making has cultivated lasting relationships, powerful dialogue, and some of my most important life lessons. From my models to my paintings’ collectors, are has been the path for me to know myself and know my people. Ultimately, to love myself and love people. lindseycherek.com

Melissa Wickwire: Source

Photo Kjersti Vick

Themes of human connection and nature are central to my architectural ceramic work, along with an intense curiosity about source and process. My drive comes from the healing that creating my work provides. I have experienced common human wounds: trauma, abuse, poverty, and mental health issues. Among the joys and trials of life, my studio practice is an anchor and a buffer.

Making each piece by hand, my ceramic tile has the ability to transform built environments from the rigid perfection of machined materials to the restorative, grounding experience of natural clay — much like how a walk in the woods or time spent by a lake can ease the human mind.

Even outside of my studio, I often question the source and process inherent in my surroundings. How was this made? Where did this come from? Why would someone take the time and effort required to make this? These are important questions that can help bring meaning, connection, and, in turn, healing to our lives.

Currently I am exploring site-specific, non-toxic, post- industrial waste to create sustainable, accessible ceramic tile. I am seeking a mentor or partner with complementary skills and a passion for environmental and social sustainability. wickwireclayworks.com

Kprecia Ambers: Self-Love

“God is Dope,” digital photo doodle, 18”x18”, 2021

Art is an expression. We saw its power in the aftermath of the tragic murder of George Floyd, when art covered Minnesota, from graffiti and quotes, to portraits, murals, and more. Art speaks to people, brings them together, and holds a presence without words. My hope is for my business, Kp Inspires, to encourage self-love through illustration.

Too often, we allow society and culture to dictate what we think and feel about ourselves. As I mature, I question the law and challenge myself to unlearn false narratives. Although I know society will always hold influence, it is important to be aware when comparing and judging ourselves. One way I stay level-headed is by taking time to celebrate humans and their experiences. I want to inspire others to be their most authentic selves. kpinspires.com

Sydney Latimer: Healing

“SAY HER NAME,” mixed media sculpture, 2020

Collective trauma is real. I witnessed it firsthand in the summer of 2020 as the Twin Cities burned from civil unrest. I grew up in the Rondo community. Touring Midway Center’s charred remains broke my heart. In June, I decided to leave my job of 13 years as a grocer, go back to school, and pursue work dedicated to healing the communities that have been fractured from inequality and racism.

Seeing boarded-up businesses has added to the sense of disconnection we feel during the pandemic. Since May 2020, I have watched murals and memorials spring up like roses from concrete. I realized that I wanted to work with an organization dedicated to building community power through the arts.

In February, I became the community coordinator at the Victoria Theater Arts Center in Saint Paul. We developed a Neighborhood Trauma Response program and opened artistic spaces where the community can paint murals to heal and rebuild. Beyond the collective trauma, there is collective joy. Murals prove that we will not be broken. We are here. We matter.

“SAY HER NAME” is a street art collaboration I did with the sketch artist Tashafina to honor Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, and Aiyana Stanley-Jones — three Black femmes who died due to police brutality. This multimedia structure was made with repurposed furniture, paper art, crafting, and found objects which house Tasha’s beautiful illustration. I modeled this shrine after the opulent shrines of Catholic saints to invoke quiet reverence and encourage public dialogue about collective grief, police brutality, social uprising, and civil discourse. On March 16, 2021, I added the names of the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings in solidarity with the Asian American community. victoriatheater.org; tashafina.com

Karlyn Eckman: Mending the Divide

“Red Line,” oil painting on stretched canvas, 18” x 24,” 2021

Soon after the turn of the 20th century, property deeds in Minneapolis and Saint Paul began to include race-based property ownership restrictions. During the New Deal era, banks supported these restrictions — called racial covenants — by denying loans for properties in areas where Black people and other people of color, immigrant groups, and Jews settled.

White professionals were able to buy houses in tonier areas closer to major parks and parkways. Law forbade property owners in certain areas from selling their homes to nonwhite buyers in perpetuity.

The Lowry Avenue bridge spanned the Mississippi River and connected Northeast to North Minneapolis. The original iron bridge, shown in this painting, has since been replaced with a newer concrete and steel structure.

I grew up in Northeast Minneapolis in a first- and second- generation immigrant family during the 1950s and 1960s. Northeast was an area where many whites with lower-class standing lived. North Minneapolis was one area in the city where Black people and others were pushed. I have clear memories of my white male classmates stating that they would block the bridge (and much worse) if Black people crossed it. I do not recall seeing a Black person in my neighborhood until I was in the tenth grade.

The bridge, braces, and superstructure in this painting reflect the skin tones of residents on either side of the bridge. As one crosses the Lowry bridge, one moves from predominantly Black and Indigenous low-income communities to white, lower-class, and immigrant populations that existed at the time.

Nowadays, the area where I grew up is more diverse, although racism still exists. I hope that this painting expresses in some small way the deep pain of the past while acknowledging the diversity and growth that has occurred since segregation was first coded into Minnesota law. eckmanart.com; mappingprejudice.umn.edu

Carla Hamilton: On the Edge

Carla and her son. Courtesy photo

The visual arts have always been tied with social movements and I think that is true now more than ever. The arts are a space for people who have not traditionally been a part of mainstream narratives to express themselves and voice the issues impacting their communities and express fear, pain, joy, and anxiety. I hope my work serves as a visual representation for people who feel they may not have a voice or a place to be heard.

My work has always been sort of “on the edge,” and in recent years, with the work being done around social justice movements, I think that is the trajectory of the arts today. They are shifting more towards that edge, and I am grateful for that opening of space.

Patricia Greene: Encouragement 

“Light in Motion”

“Light in Motion” might be my favorite drawing. It illustrates my long-time fascination with the interplay of light and color, my love of experimenting with blending colored light and colored ink, and how each produces entirely different results. 

But it is bigger than that. Beyond the process of experimentation or vibrant color, beyond any attachment to my fledgling foray into abstraction, this drawing connects me deeply to place and people, to the incredibly supportive community of students and instructors I was privileged to be a part of when I created it. 

Without that sense of belonging, without the mutual commitment to our individual and collective successes, I do not believe I would have taken the risk of exploring my desire to express emotion through abstract art.

Melinda Kordich: Story Healing

Halloween, 24 inches

During the lockdown this past year, I began to think about how my Grandmas had to create with what they had. Everything on my art dolls — paint, muslin, beads, embroidery floss, and pencil — are things I had around my house. Years of creating art gave me a ton of treasures to play with. I decided to tell stories with these dolls because stories bind us together. Stories are shared, stories heal, and stories entertain — everything we are working towards.