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Public art project coming soon to Minnehaha Ave.

Posted on 22 May 2017 by calvin

Mosaic in a Stick 09Photos and article by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
In one of the finishing touches of a two-year period of reconstruction, fourteen handmade, mosaic trash receptacles will be installed in front of businesses along Minnehaha Ave. Community mosaic artists Lori Greene (photo right) and Greta McLain have been working on designing and creating these pieces of public art since January 2017, and expect to install them in early June.

Melanie Majors, Executive Director of the Longfellow Community Council (LCC), said, “Hennepin County approached us about the possibility of doing an art installation along Minnehaha Ave. a couple of years ago, during the reconstruction planning stage. Lots of ideas had been discussed over time, but choosing what kind of art can go in is tricky. Every piece of public art that’s approved has to have an entity that’s willing to be responsible for graffiti removal and general maintenance. Fourteen businesses decided to purchase the trash receptacles, showcase them on their property, and take care of them.”

“Our approach was comprehensive,” Majors continued. “Robb Luckow with Hennepin County talked with business owners along Minnehaha Ave. to learn what they wanted, and what they were willing to do. All of the stakeholders agreed that the goal was not just beautification of post-construction, but to take this opportunity to further ‘brand’ the corridor. Once we settled on the mosaic project, we applied for and received a Minnesota Regional Arts Council grant for $10,000. That grant required a contribution of $2,500 by both Hennepin County and LCC.”

Mosaic in a Stick 15Photo left: Story-telling with mosaic tiles requires working with material that is hard and sharp – to create images that are soft and flowing.

LCC next turned to Glen Dahl, a Realtor who buys, rehabs and sells a lot of homes in South Minneapolis. Dahl has an unusual approach to doing business in that he gives 1-2% of the profit from each sale to a neighborhood project. Majors said, “The scope of our project was in line with how Glen wants to give back to the community, and he was happy to cover LCC’s share of the costs.”

Greene and long-time collaborator McLain held a series of six workshops throughout the winter. Attendees were able to make their own “mosaic on a stick” and, in the process, shared their ideas of what the new trash receptacles would say about the neighborhood.

Greene explained, “Greta and her team are making seven of the trash receptacles, and we’re making the other seven at my St. Paul studio, Mosaic on a Stick. We had a really good turn-out for our winter workshops. Different people would come each time, but it seemed like everyone was coming for the same reason: to do something positive, something creative. We asked each group the same questions, ‘How does your community feel to you?’ and ‘When you think of your neighborhood, what images come to mind?’ Participants drew pictures of gardens, the Mississippi River, biking, dogs, and simple patterns that were pleasing to their eye.”

Mosaic in a Stick 16Photo right: A pile of finished panels, stacked and ready for transport.

“We think this project will bring more people onto Minnehaha Ave.,” Majors concluded, “and will really enhance its visual appeal. From the beginning, business owners were saying that it isn’t just about what goes on inside—it matters what goes on outside of their businesses too. Longfellow is not an insular community. It’s one that says, ‘We want other people to come here.’”

In a final nod to the partnership that made this community mosaic project happen, Majors said, “There was cooperation in every direction. MRAC was great; Hennepin County really did their due diligence, the Minnehaha business owners, the neighbors, and participants were engaged; Glen Dahl’s contribution was greatly appreciated; and Fire Roast Cafe generously donated coffee and snacks throughout the creative process.

Watch LCC’s website or view their Facebook page for updates about the installation next month of the mosaic trash receptacles. Minnehaha Avenue’s new public art installation will be colorful, engaging, and utterly practical all at the same time.

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