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Bossen Mural Celebration and Open House planned Oct. 3

Posted on 25 September 2017 by calvin

Community Mural 13

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
How does a run-down garage in a high-poverty neighborhood become a symbol of community pride?

Bossen is an area within the Winona neighborhood, just east of Bossen Park. It contains 50 apartment buildings and about 1,250 residents. According to current Met Council statistics, the poverty rate for the Twin Cities overall is 22.7%. But Bossen has been designated as a racially concentrated area of poverty where upwards of 40% of the residents are living below the poverty line. Residents of color are heavily represented there, with a high percentage of Latinos, East Africans, and African Americans.

The Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA) has been doing a lot of work in Bossen in the last couple of years, according to executive director Becky Timm. “In 2016, we worked with Metro Transit to survey residents as part of the Better Bus Stop project. One result was the addition of a new bus shelter built at Sander Dr. and E. 58th St. last summer,” Timm said, “and this year we’ve been working on improving awareness of energy efficiency with tenants and landlords in neighboring apartment buildings.

Community Mural 20Photo right: Community teaching artist Victor Yepez, whose passion is transforming neighborhoods one mural at a time. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Most recently, NENA sponsored a community mural project that grew out of a partnership with the Minneapolis Department of Health. Timm said, “We learned there was funding available for place-making initiatives, under the parameters of addressing healthy living with an outdoor community project.”

NENA put out a call for artists and received more than two dozen proposals. Victor Yepez, a community teaching artist with a passion for transforming neighborhoods, was chosen. Originally from Ecuador, Yepez now lives in East Nokomis and has completed 37 community mural projects across Minnesota.

“Victor’s proposal stood out among the others,” Timm said. “We liked that community voices would be part of the design process, and that community members would be involved in the painting.”

NENA reached out to neighborhood property owner Spencer Pope, who was happy to provide the south side of his garage as a background for the mural. His garage had been a target for graffiti off and on and was in poor condition. With the help of Pope, community volunteers, and NENA board members, the old siding was removed, and a new plasterboard surface was put up.

The “canvas” for the mural stretched for half a block, and it was ready to go.

Following a Bossen Area Renter’s Party last spring, enough ideas were generated to fill the mural from end to end.

Community Mural 11Photo left: Residents of the Bossen neighborhood participated in two community painting days in August to help complete the mural. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“We decided to show off the beautiful things we have in this neighborhood,” Yepez said, “like the water features of Minnehaha Falls, Lake Nokomis, the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, and Cold Water Springs. Residents were excited about the image of the butterfly hatching from its chrysalis because it symbolizes transformation; and the colorful, multi-cultural ribbon that runs across the mural symbolizes that all of us, no matter what color, are connected.”

Timm concluded, “We’ve gotten many emails and calls at the NENA office from people saying how much they appreciate the mural. When Victor was out painting, either by himself or with kids from the neighborhood, people driving by or walking often stop and talk to him about the project. That’s why we love using art as a community building tool: there’s both the beauty of the mural itself, and also the connections that spring up because it’s there.”

Nokomis resident and artist Dani Bianchini added mosaic elements to the mural, giving a third dimension to the medicine wheel and monarch butterfly, among other elements.

An official Bossen Mural Celebration and Open House is planned for Tues., Oct. 3 from 6-7:30pm at 5757 Sander Dr. Call the NENA office at 724-5652 with questions.

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