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#ItsThePeople 2020

Inspired by the people whose experiences and stories create the unique vibrancy of Hennepin Avenue, It’s the People is a major outdoor public art project that captures the heart and soul of the people who make Minneapolis’ most famous street so richly unique.

As the project enters its third year, these large-scale portraits join existing murals and public art projects in the District with captivating portraits shot by renowned Minnesota artists showcasing themes including identity, empowerment, trans equity, community outreach through violence prevention and social justices for missing and murdered indigenous women. These images are displayed on Clear Channel Outdoor billboards across the region, street pole banners that line Hennepin Avenue and in the programming the Trust produces to support artists” work in our It’s the People Virtual Rountable series.

Trans Equity by Ryan Coit

Ryan Coit - Trans equity, servicemen and disabled veterans

Subjects: Britt Sickmann, Ashley Scott

Ryan Coit chose trans equity as the topic for his portrait, as he has been intimately involved in the trans equity movement. Ryan selected Britt and Ashley because they are community leaders, high-ranking trans-identifying service members, regular patrons of the Saloon and very close friends to Ryan.

He wanted it to be about them. He knows so many will look up at the image and feel their power and courage. He knows this is what needs to happen. When people thank Ryan for putting the banner up, he tells them it was not his project, it is a Hennepin Theatre Trust project. It means a lot to them that we are putting our logo on it and shows that it is not just the Saloon that supports them, but the extended community as well. He said they know who comes to Pride and who supports them all year long. It is a deeply validating and moving gesture that Hennepin Theatre Trust is partnering with the Saloon and giving Ryan this opportunity to use his photography to empower his subjects and tell their story.

Meet the artist

Ryan Coit is an international photographer exploring the human form and the world. For the past several years, his life and photography has been influenced by his involvement in the LGBTQ+ community. Ryan is internationally recognized for presenting images that capture the beauty in all types of individuals expressing their sexuality and identity. Ryan studied under Kristine Heykants Photography.

To learn more about Ryan Coit, follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Meet the subjects

Ashley Scott is a BIPOC Transgender retired disabled Army veteran. He served for 11 and a half years, including overseas in Kuwait and Iraq, and served in the Virginia Honor Guard. He is going on two years as membership captain for Twin Cites T-Rexx and also second year as Vice President for Twin Cities Spectrum. Scott does a lot of public speaking and fundraising for things that intersect his life like transgender, BIPOC, toxic masculinity, military and unseen disabilities issues. His hope for this photo is that it gives love, strength, courage, and fills that loneliness inside when you struggle to see someone like you. Many transgender people, especially transgender women of color, aren’t safe. Scott stands here to be a mouthpiece and to claim their space.

Britt Sickmann lives in Bloomington and has been serving the in the Army for 12 years. He is a member of the LGBTQ+ community in the Twin Cities, serving as the Vice President for Twin Cities T-Rexx and an associate member of the Twin Cities Sirens. For the first eight years in the Army, Sickmann was a chaplain assistant providing support and care for soldiers. Currently, he is a career counselor, helping soldiers advance their careers. Sickmann is also the youngest openly transgender Sargent First Class in the Army. He hopes that this photo will show strength and courage. It isn’t every day that we get to see representation from the LGBTQ+ or Transgender community in the military or other jobs that they hold. The fight for LGBTQ+ rights isn’t over yet, but there is a strong community willing to stand up and continue to fight for them.

It's the People Virtual Roundtable - Trans Equity

Social justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls by Chad Germann

Chad Germann - Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Subjects: Mother: Valentina Zaragoza, Daughter: Lucia Engstrum-Zaragoza

Chad’s portrait is of a mother and daughter from White Earth. The mother is standing behind the daughter, looking straight into the camera with a defiant look in a strong regal pose with her hand over the daughter’s face, suggesting protection and/or threat. The subject wears red, which is the color associated with social justice for missing and murdered indigenous women.

Chad chose this topic as he feels it is pertinent to the Hennepin Theatre District as an issue that touches our downtown but is too often invisible. There are a disproportionate number of indigenous people receiving shelter services in downtown and the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is something he feels needs to be at the forefront of safety and equity conversations for the district.

Meet the artist

Chad Germann is an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Tribe of Minnesota and founder and CEO of Red Circle. In 2008, Germann was one of five people recognized as Change Agent Honorees as part of The 2008 ADCOLOR® Awards, presented by the ADCOLOR® Industry Coalition. The honorees are from notable companies such as Google, Disney, ESPN Media Networks, USA Today, Ogilvy, Saatchi & Saatchi, Campbell-Ewald, Carol H. Williams Advertising, DDB, Denuo and many others. In 2011, Germann was named to the NCAIED’s 40 under 40 honoree list.

To learn more about Chad Germann, visit RedCircleAgency.com.

It's the People Virtual Roundtable - Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Exploring identity by Kristine Heykants

Kristine Heykants - Identity

Participating students from The FAIR School: Faaya Adem, Masnoo Adem, Yohannes Belete, Xavier Biggs, Savion Black, Latreese Brown, Tre’Von Calaway, Felix Corrigan, Griffin Dorius, Jace Edington, Emma Huffman, Seoki Kahler, Kadija Noor, Eva Smith, T’Aaliyah Smith, Sula Soliel, Keegan Strum, Hannah Washington, and Alex Van Dyke

Kristine led high school students from The FAIR School in exploring identity through the lens of photography, creating banner images to be displayed publicly on the school building exterior.

Using historic and contemporary examples as a point of departure, students investigated portraiture within the context of visual communications and personal expression. The workshop immersed teenagers in the creative process, allowing experimentation with different personas through a mixture of visual research, reflection and technical instruction.

Students walked away with an understanding about layers of meaning in portraiture and its cousins the snapshot and selfie, producing portraits that provide an empowering platform of visibility for these young people at this stage of their lives.

Meet the artist

Kristine Heykants’ work lies at the intersection of storytelling and art, as she seeks to unearth humanity and values while finding beauty in the familiar and every day. She looks to pioneering psychologist Carl Jung’s concept of archetypes as a way to describe roles played by humans throughout history. Kristine holds a Master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications and a BFA in Art and Design. She has received grants from the Jerome Foundation, McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. She exhibits widely and teaches photography at Minneapolis College.

To learn more about Kristine Heykants, visit KristineHeykants.com or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

Kristine Heykants in conversation with her subjects

Violence prevention by Nikki McComb

Nikki McComb - Gun Violence Prevention

Subjects: VJ Smith, MAD DADS; Lisa Clemons, A Mother’s Love; Ferome Brown, GVI Project Life; Maleta Kimmons (Queen) GVI, Project Life; Sasha Cotton, City of Minneapolis; Jamil Jackson, GIV Project Life, Change Equals Opportunity; Bunny Beeks

Nikki McComb is a north side resident and has a long history of working at the intersection of art and violence prevention. She was previously the liaison for Hennepin County/ North Memorial and victims of gun violence, working with families who have been traumatized and lost loved ones. Nikki also founded The Enough Campaign for Gun Safety and Art is My Weapon using art as a catalyst for change in the issue of gun violence. In choosing a subject for this project, Nikki felt strongly that violence prevention strategies and the community leaders who serve in the front lines and behind the scenes deserve recognition as silent heroes who show up every day to positively impact our communities in the Hennepin Theatre District.

Meet the artist

Nikki McComb uses photographs and video to reach people from the street level to the legislative arena and to help provide communities an outlet where they feel safe enough to seek help, empowered enough to give help, provoked enough to work harder to unify, and unified enough to make change collectively through art. For seventeen years, McComb has applied her artistic interests and skills to working relentlessly in North Minneapolis and surrounding communities in youth and family achievement. In addition to being an art educator, she has organized exhibitions, including “Art Is My Weapon,” a program whereby local artists select decommissioned guns to then create new work for display. McComb is a 2017 recipient of The Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, a 2016 recipient of a Micro Grant for photography and a 2014 and 2015 recipient of several community leadership awards.

To learn more about Nikki McComb, visit ArtIsMyWeapon.org.

It's the People Virtual Roundtable - Gun Violence Prevention

Lucas Wells - Asian American Spotlight alumni women

Subjects: Emma Schuld: actor, singer, dancer, Triple Threat Award Finalist, 2020 graduating class of Cretin-Derham Hall; Sheena Janson Kelley: freelance artist, performer, casting director, associate producer, also evaluator and lead for several Spotlight masterclasses; Ann Kim: former actress and director of Spotlight Education, restaurateur of Young Joni, Hello Pizza and Pizzeria Lola, and James Beard award winner

Lucas started the project wanting to highlight both Spotlight alums as well as Asian American women, as the demographic is largely marginalized in the industry. He portrays the past, present and future of Spotlight Education through these portraits. Each of the women has a strong presence and are all highly accomplished individuals with their endeavors in life.

Meet the artist

Lucas Wells is a photographer and videographer based in Minneapolis. Focusing on portraiture, Lucas has worked with many artists, nonprofits and other organizations in Minnesota over the past several years including the Ordway, Hennepin Theatre Trust, Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, the Spread Sunshine Gang and many more. In addition to being a visual artist, Lucas is also a performer. His credits include the first national tour of Spring Awakening, HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” multiple Twin Cities credits (CDT, Yellow Tree and more) and commercial work. He resides in Minneapolis with his wife, 1-year-old son and their 13-year-old chihuahua.

To learn more about Lucas Wells, follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Lucas Wells in conversation with his subjects