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Community Connects makes a web of public art in Longfellow

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

Sara Hanson (left) and Jessica Bergman Tank (right) are the creators of Community Connects. They’ve made cast iron and aluminum sculptures in partnership with Metro Work Center since 2013, and the finished sculptures can be visited throughout the Longfellow neighborhood. The functional art table shown here is a permanent installation at the East Lake Library. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Community Connects is the name of an innovative partnership between metal artists Sara Hanson and Jessica Bergman Tank, programs participants at Metro Work Center—along with their direct care professionals—and the Longfellow neighborhood. Since 2013, these many sets of hands have worked together to make cast metal sculptures for exhibit and use in public places.

Photo right: This piece made for Alexander’s Import Auto Repair used on-site textures representative of an auto repair shop: castors, gears, and tools. (Photo provided by Community Connects)

This year, Community Connects partnered with four very different enterprises: Alexander’s Import Auto Repair, Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits, Moon Palace Books, and the Third Precinct Police Department. All four partner sites are within walking distance of Metro Work Center (MWC) (see the article here), which is housed in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

Proximity was a factor in choosing the partner sites. MWC participants are developmentally disabled, and some also have mobility issues.

Photo left: Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits is currently exhibiting all of this year’s sculptures in their front window at 2613 E. Lake St. (Photo provided by Community Connects)

Hanson and Bergman Tank are both independent community artists. When they work together, they call themselves Metal in the Void. Their art making uses the cast metal process to bring people together, and to affect change in people’s lives and environments. Community Connections was conceived as a way to integrate MWC participants into the surrounding neighborhood, and to give them a great art-making experience too.

Beginning in August, the whole crew of community artists spent several days at each of the partner sites. They worked together to press patterns and textures into clay, or to mold clay objects by hand. Techniques for manipulating clay are adaptable to different levels of fine and gross motor skills and cognitive abilities.

Photo right: The process of creating art promotes daily living skills, problem-solving, team building, community integration, self-empowerment and, last but not least, it’s fun. (Photo provided by Community Connects)

Bergman Tank explained, “Metal casting involves working at very high temperatures, so most of the melting and pouring was done in-studio. We did do a demonstration pour at MWC with one of our portable furnaces, so everyone could see what the process was. This type of art-making is very process focused; it’s not just about what the finished product looks like.”

The finished sculptures have been hanging in the front window of Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits since early October and will stay up through the end of the year.

MWC participants will then bring each of them home to the four partner sites where they’ll be on permanent display. Hanson said, “It’s important that the MWC participants be able to see their work when they walk through the neighborhood. That experience brings a sense of pride and professionalism that is part of community connection. Past projects have been done with Longfellow Family Dental, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, and the East Lake Library.

Consider taking a walk through the neighborhood to see how many of the sculptures you can find. Community art projects like this (and the connections that they build) are part of what hold a community together. Community Connects is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to an appropriation form the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Photo left: Members of the Police Department Community Engagement Team joined community artists in finalizing the piece that will hang in the Third Precinct building. (Photo provided by Community Connects)

Hanson has a workshop on wheels (a portable foundry) and a studio in SE Minneapolis; she can be reached at

Bergman Tank is the foundry director and volunteer coordinator for the Chicago Fire Arts Center in South Minneapolis, and also has a portable furnace she can bring to arts and community activities. She can be reached at