Midway neighborhood will get an artistic makeover in 2015

Jackie Bussjaeger, Editor in Chief

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The Hamline Midway is known for being a whimsically eclectic neighborhood, filled with everything from Turkish restaurants to used bookstores to the scene of the Great Minnesota Get-Together. The cultural diversity that exists along the strip of Snelling, between HU and University, exemplifies a community that has many different ways of expressing itself.

Here and there, a fading mural adds a bit of color to the neighborhood. Down the length of Snelling, small trees grow in concrete planters adorned with bright-patterned designs from Mosaic on a Stick. The Midway has always embraced a unique and artistic blend of cultural identities—and this summer, the community will be converting even more of the walls that divide into walls that unite.

The Midway Murals project proposes to bring in four new murals to the walls of local businesses during the summer of 2015. The project officially launched last Friday night at the Turf Club, where project organizer Jonathan Oppenheimer introduced the artists and community members who are putting the plan into action. The project is funded by an IndieGoGo campaign, and merchandise including a silent auction of artwork from the muralists was available for purchase at the Turf Club launch party.

The venue was packed with Midway community members, some of them Hamline students, who were able to socialize and learn more about the prokect from its organizers. Surveys distributed throughout the venue asked guests for their own ideas about what the community artwork should be like.

“The artwork will be determined in a process of engaging with the community,” Oppeheimer said. Most of the artists have already spoken with the business owners at their respective mural locations, and have some preliminary ideas about what might take shape there. However, nothing is definite yet, and Oppenheimer said the designs will be fully complete this May.

The four muralists are locally based, and represent a variety of artistic styles. Yuya Negishi, a visual artist who moved to the Twin Cities from Japan four years ago, will be creating a work of art for Kim’s Market, only two blocks away from the Hamline campus. Negishi said that it is important to him to represent the story of the immigrant in his artwork.

“I want to tell their story and bind them together,” he said. “It’s gotta have a great message, and a deeper meaning about Korean heritage.”

He also stressed the importance of the location of these murals along Snelling, since the nearby State Fair draws crowds from so many different places. “It’s great to get outside exposure that way,” he said.

Artist Greta McLain, who will be painting the side of the Sunshine Beauty Salon, said that she has already met with the business owner to generate a few ideas for what they would both like to see on the wall. She thought that it would probably be something that unites the idea of the African immigrant identity, the woman’s world and perhaps the image of braids.

“Ideas will be based on listening sessions within [the] community, but connected to the big, overall project,” McLain said.

Lori Greene is a local mosaic artist and the owner of Mosaic on a Stick on Snelling and Lafond. The mosaic she designs for Midway Murals will be displayed at the Star Market. She expressed the significance of mosaic as a medium, saying, “There are so many metaphors in it; being broken and put back together again. It tells many stories, and it’s a friendly art form—everybody can do it.”

Like the other artists, she plans to do most of the work in her studio before installation at the end of the summer. She said that along with her own staff, volunteers will be welcome in piecing the mural together in the studio.

Eric Mattheis will be creating the final mural, for the Snelling Cafe. He said that he wants to represent the Eritrean heritage of the business owners, and described his style as “eclectic and challenging.” Mattheis also has past experience in creating large works of public art, and this project appealed to him.

“I really like to marry art and social justice,” he said.

This is exactly what Oppenheimer intends with the project. As a resident and active participant in the Midway community (he also leads the Friends of Hamline group that maintains the Snelling park) and as a student at the University of Minnesota pursuing a dual master’s in social work and public policy, the Midway Murals project gives voice to several of his passions. However, he was certain to thank and give credit to everyone in the community who is helping the venture to take shape.

“This project is nothing without the business owners who said ‘yeah’ when I said ‘let’s do it,’” Oppenheimer said.

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