Artists, community members collaborate on mural

(l-r) Jordan Hamilton and Olivia Levins Holden were among the artists who participated in the mural on Clinton Avenue and 24th Street.
(l-r) Jordan Hamilton and Olivia Levins Holden were among the artists who participated in the mural on Clinton Avenue and 24th Street. (Wayne Nealis/MSR News)

It is often said that the activity of creating art or music brings people together like few other human activities. For 15 years the mural project, sponsored by Hope Community, has been doing just that by creating murals across South Minneapolis. This includes the history-themed mural on the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder building that is almost completed.

This year Hope, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and St. Stephen’s Human Services collaborated to create a mural resonating with meaning and history on a previously white-washed wall facing a parking lot at the corner of Clinton Avenue and 24th Street. Community members guided by artists Jordan Hamilton and Olivia Levins Holden created the themes and stories represented on the 40-foot-long mural from their own life experiences.

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(Wayne Nealis/MSR News)

Themes range from the plight of homelessness to police brutality, from nurturing children to spirituality. A special section is devoted to commemorating the life and musical genius of Prince.

On Tuesday morning, October 4, nearly a dozen community members (now muralists), the artists, and others who facilitated the work gathered to commemorate the three-month-long project. “It is one of the best we’ve ever done,” said Chaka Mkali, an artist himself and director of organizing and community building at Hope.

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(Wayne Nealis/MSR News)

A light rain fell as people were arriving, but as the program began the sun was shining on the vibrant mural colors. Shining, as well, were the faces of those who created the work.

During the presentation of awards, Marjeana Kanatzer, one of the participants, said, “Often society looks down on homeless people. This [mural] is a way to express how we feel.”

The meaning of the work resonated with a sense of hope expressed by another of the first-time muralists, James Patrick Kelly. “If you get depressed, this is a place to come and feel better.”

Harry Maddox, another participant, defined the project within a societal context: “When you invest in people you give them hope and direction.” Maddox, like all the participants, expressed a desire to contribute to future mural projects.

Warm hugs and well wishes were in abundance as people departed the celebration affirming what Pedro Anthony Salazar, another project participant, said: “The point of this for me was bringing people together.”

Wayne Nealis welcomes reader responses to wynnls@hotmail.com.