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#ArtConnectsUs August 2020

Hennepin Theatre Trust partnered with Clear Channel Outdoor to produce Art Connects Us, a digital public art project. The project features original artwork by Minnesota-based artists presenting images and messages of hope to those affected by COVID-19 and gratitude for the people working on the front lines.

The Trust has expanded the scope of Art Connects Us to include reactions to the local and national conversations demanding the breakdown of systemic racism. “This injustice in our city and beyond must not be ignored,” said Mark Nerenhausen, president and CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust. “While the arts can be a source of unity, we are committed to joining other voices in the community that are calling for equity and justice in Minnesota.”

Joan Vorderbruggen, director of Hennepin Theatre District Engagement, reached out to artists for additional designs to reflect those themes. Due to the positive response, designs focusing on social justice will now be included in rotations for July and August. “We are grateful to our artists for the opportunity to expand our Art Connects Us billboard project to include meaningful responses to the killing of George Floyd and the worldwide outcry for change,” said Vorderbruggen.” The ten previously scheduled designs relating COVID-19 for July and August will be featured in September.

Corrupt System by Kprecia Ambers

Corrupt System, calls for change and challenges people to face a bigger picture. This system was built for racists, by racists and years later it still stands, yet we are “progressing”. That makes no sense, when it only serves those it was created for, White America. My art expresses my pain and a call for progressive action. No one should have to beg to be treated justly. I am tired of seeing my people and others fight so hard to simply live. We experience so much push back and it is time to dismantle systemic racism and recreate our foundation. America was never great! We do not need to go back to how things were, we need to use the past and present to create something better. This will take a nation of people to work together. I do not have the answers, but I know we need an evolution and I challenge others to think about how that looks.

Kprecia is the founder of Kp Inspires and full-time freelance illustrator from Minneapolis, MN. She uses her art as an expression to celebrate black culture, empower, support businesses, and educate. Her goal is to be an example and inspire others like her to build their own door to walk through.

More: Kpinspires.com, @kpinspires

Still Blooming by Katie Blanchard

We are facing immense loss, grief, and despair and also witnessing transformational acts of solidarity, care, and hope as we help each other navigate Covid-19 together (and safely 6-feet apart). To get through this and not "return to normal", but rather create a different and better new normal, we will need to be able to hold the grief and hope all at once -- which we can. We are resilient. It’s no surprise that many of our metaphors and sayings about resilience come from the natural world around us - weathering the storm, being rooted, etc. -- and from that toughness, we still bloom.

Katie Blanchard is an artist and designer in Minneapolis, MN. Her art practice began making zines in the back of class in her hometown in Northern Michigan, and is suffused with the hope-in-the-dark-winter spirit of all the Midwestern places she has called home. She is an avid reader and a Spanish interpreter, and her work explores language, history, memory, patterns, and place.

More: katie-blanchard.com; @k.c.blanchard

Essentials by Philipo Dyauli

My goal is to design a project that speaks to everyone and highlights what is most important or essential during these challenging times. I want to include everyday items we all REQUIRE as a reminder of our similarities rather than our differences. This includes hazard pay, self-care (sleep, diet and exercise), safety gear, medicine and toilet paper.

The vital role these people play has never been more apparent. From farmers, to suppliers, to nurses, to bus drivers, and everyone in between. I personally took their contributions for granted and this has been a helpful reminder how fortunate we are to have their help. Thus my idea is a collage of “essential items” that resonate with the everyday person to remind them of their power to make a difference in their community. Hence, every Minnesotan matters and is essential.

My name is Philipo Dyauli and I am a self-taught artist from Tanzania currently living and working in Minneapolis. My art is primarily acrylic paintings and is inspired by my favorite musicians, Saturday morning cartoons and film. I incorporate my Tanzanian roots and personal experiences to create work that reflects my life in the United States and East Africa. This often involves depictions of favorite family traditions, friends and personal heroes.

More: philipodyauli.com; @philipowashere

When the cry is "Justice!" ... all mothers are summoned. by Camille Gage and David Grant With Jim Dryden and Scott Streble

Our billboard, When the cry is “Justice! was inspired by the photo of a handmade protest sign that went viral during the week following George Floyd’s murder. The sign, held by a young woman, read, “When George Floyd called out for his momma, all mothers were summoned."* We wanted to highlight the role of mothers in the fight for justice and attempt to capture the fierce love, grounded strength, and unwavering commitment of the women committed to this struggle.

We would like to offer our deepest thanks to the mothers who agreed to pose for this work: Margaret, Nimco, Farhiya, Angela, Amoke, Jen, Aster, and Jametta.

*Photogragh of the woman and her sign as seen on the Instagram account of ‘thatgirlraee’ and titled, Protest in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Day 2 of protesting.

Camille Gage is a Minneapolis artist and writer inspired by the intersection of art and political expression. Gage believes artists have a role to play in shaping the public consciousness and creating a more compassionate and equitable world. David Grant is a Twin Cities-based writer and playwright. He’s had many works commissioned and appears in many anthologies. When he’s not writing or teaching, David facilitates life skills groups for men incarcerated at the Ramsey County Correctional Facility. Gage and Grant previously collaborated on a billboard addressing the issue of race in 1989.

For the When the cry is, “Justice!” Gage and Grant also collaborated with Scott Streble and Jim Dryden. Streble is a photographer best known for his documentary photographs of people, using an approach that portrays his subjects with honesty and dignity. Dryden is an artist and illustrator who draws inspiration from many diverse cultural and ethnic traditions.

More: gageart.net

Art Connects Us by Michael Gaughan

Giant crayon (with hand drawn outline around crayon) laying horizontal, with pixilated interpretation of Mondrian’s tree painting with Toilet paper added, a map of Minneapolis, some flowers, and Bicycle in the oval of crayon.

Michael Gaughan is a Minneapolis based watercolor Artist: MFA Painting 2014 San Francisco Art Institute / M.Ed Art Education 2004 University of MN / BFA Painting 2002 Minneapolis College of Art and Design / Over 16 years teaching experience / Over 19 years experience as an exhibiting visual artist, performing artist, and commercial artist.

More: michael-gaughan.com; @michaelgaughanfunpix

Sin justicia no hay paz by Keren Kroul

The phrases “sin justicia no hay paz” in Spanish, and its English translation: “without justice there is no peace” are typed in blood red letters and superimposed on a white web. The web is a reference to the fragile interconnectedness of all human beings, and the understanding that injustice for some of us affects all of us, a pull or a tear shapes the entire fabric. White is a reference to death and mourning, and also to peace and light.

Keren is an artist and teaches Spanish and Art. She received Artist Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board in 2015, 2017, and 2019. Her work is shown nationally, and was featured in MN Original, Paint Lab, Color Lab and Tangled Art. She holds an MFA in Painting from Parsons School of Design.

More: kerenkroul.com

A Heartful Thanks by Shawn McCann

For so many, human touch and compassion is something that we took for granted before this pandemic hit. Most people live with others and their families, but there are numerous people that live alone, whether by design, in assisted living centers, or nursing homes that have been isolated from that basic human notion of company. With this piece, I am in search of what that love means from one person to the next. Whether it be a simple hello to an embrace, to a bond of friendship that can’t be broken.

Shawn is a street artist and muralist based in the Twin Cities. His work has been exhibited and shown worldwide. He is also co-founder of Chalkfest at Arbor Lakes and six other street art festival throughout the midwest.

More: shawnmccann.com; @shawn.arts

Growth by Brighton McCormick

In spite of death and loss and physical isolation our plant and our community continuous to grow. The warmth of spring has come to the Midwest and the frozen waters flow again. Our gardens will bud with new life, marking the passing of time, reminding us that all things come to an end. For many of us all we can do is wait, but small actions, like the planting of a seed, lead to big things.

I am a maker. A maker of objects, images, spaces, sounds, reflections, sentences and mistakes. My heavily material based practice incorporates handcrafted objects, 2D images, as well as sound and video typically resulting in installed environments. I often combine various mediums, but the resulting works live in the domain of sculpture. Utilizing experimental casting techniques for metal and clay I fossilize memories and reflections of everyday moments and formed ideologies.

More: Brightonmccormick.com

Everything’s Okay by Neal Peterson

If the future could tell us one thing, what would it be? If we knew everything was going to be “okay”, how would we react to the issues facing humanity? Too often, news and media is fear-based. This billboard provides us with an optimistic view of what's to come.

I created this image by designing a fictional advertisement for an attorney. It reads: “GOT COVID?” And appears to come from the law office of “Neal Peterson”. Next, I processed the im-age through a series of glitch effects. Lastly, I overlaid what appears to be a hacked message of hope: “Everything’s OKAY”.

Neal Peterson is a Minneapolis-based artist. His primary work includes a photo collage series of cities called Urban Mandalas. Peterson teaches occasionally at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design.

More: nealpeterson.com; @nealpetersondotcom

If you can’t be safe, be careful by Allison Severson

Our lives have changed for now. I didn’t realize a few months ago that I wouldn’t be able to hug many of my loved ones, especially my mom on Mother’s Day. It makes me think about all the hugs that I took for granted. Human connection is now more important than ever, but we ll must remember to be careful.

Originally an illustrator and House painter. I have been sharpening my large-scale chalk and mural skills over the past two years. I enjoy all aspects of the creative process, but relish in the surprise and novelty of a large mural or colorful street drawing.

More: AllisonLSeverson.com; #alleycreations