It's the People 2021 An outdoor gallery of fine art portraits by renowned Minnesota artists capturing the heart and soul of Minneapolis’ most famous street

Now in its third year, It’s the People joins existing murals and public art projects in the Hennepin Theatre District. These captivating images showcase the stories of the people who make Hennepin Avenue a unique and colorful place. Portrait themes include frontline health care providers, multicultural dance community, social justice and identity among youth, back-of-house Latine workforce, emergency shelter advocates and empowered immigrant African artists.

“We are excited about what It’s the People brings to the Hennepin Theatre District, which is one of Minneapolis’ most historic and vibrant neighborhoods.” -Mark Nerenhausen, president and CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust

As we look forward to reopening the District, we’re providing our platforms to uplift talented Minnesota artists who are representational and inclusive of Minnesota’s diverse makeup. Storytelling through art transforms the places and spaces outside our historic theaters during such a transformative time.

“We’re excited to again to bring It’s the People to life in downtown Minneapolis. This public art initiative truly reflects our aim of provoking thought and discussion while being inspirational. We’re honored to play a role in establishing the Hennepin Theatre District as a Minnesota destination for arts and culture. Due to the pandemic, this past year of isolation and uncertainty has heightened our awareness of the ways that art can inspire and connect us. We are excited about this year’s lineup of artists and the art that they will deliver in July as we begin the process of reconnecting with others in the community.” -Stephen Glynn, Managing Director and Minnesota-Northern Plains Market Head at UBS Wealth Management USA

The portraits are being displayed in downtown Minneapolis on Clear Channel Outdoor billboards and on large-scale banners hanging at the following locations:

  • Hennepin Theatre Trust, 900 Hennepin Ave.
  • The Saloon, 830 Hennepin Ave.
  • The FAIR High School for Arts, 10 South Tenth St.
  • City Center, 33 South Sixth St.
  • The historic Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Ave.
"We partnered with six amazing people whose mastery of fine art portrait photography will capture the richness and diversity to tell the stories of the people of Hennepin Avenue. These artists are helping to illuminate the historic Hennepin Theatre District with their portraits inspired by their personal stories. When we add human elements to urban environments, we can come together as a community to create a sense of pride and opportunities for discovery.” -Joan Vorderbruggen, Director of Hennepin Theatre District Engagement for the Trust

Meet Dahli Durley

Dahli Durley is an Asian American portrait photographer focused on documenting “beautiful faces in wondrous places.” Her work chronicles the interdependence of a person in a place, with both entities playing off each other in telling their story. Though she’s based Minneapolis and lives downtown, her photographic repertoire spans across the United States and around the world. Both her work and process are based in holding “safe space” for subjects to be fully and honestly themselves. Her role is capturing a narrative of people through still imagery and allowing their being/essence to play out in front of the lens. Her command of illumination and shadows from natural light to strobe lighting defines a sense of place.

About Dahli's Portrait

Dahli Durley is shining the spotlight on one very important health care worker for her passion and commitment to our community throughout the COVID pandemic. The pandemic has placed a heavy weight of responsibility upon our healthcare workers. They are continually fighting for our lives at the cost of their own by not only being continually exposed to COVID, but also dealing with the mental and emotional toll COVID brings. Health care workers have been disproportionately affected by suicides and mental health issues during the pandemic, not only from the stress of their jobs and their personal lives but also from fears over losing licensure for seeking help. At our own doorstep in downtown Minneapolis, we have lost both Gretchen Wenner Butler, MD, a radiologist at the downtown Hennepin County Medical Center; and Hennepin EMS paramedic Karl Meek, both who tragically died by suicide this year.

Our health care workers fight for us downtown, but who is fighting for them and for us? The answer is Dr. Kellie Lease Stecher. Kellie fights for health protections for medical professionals through Minnesota Mental Health Advocates and lobbies for legislative changes to bills protecting doctors in Minnesota seeking mental health care. She is also the founder/co-president of Patient Care Heroes, a website memorializing stories of health care workers who have died while fighting against COVID-19. In photographing Kellie, we support the well-being of our downtown health care workers and truly promote mental health for all.

Meet Jaida Grey Eagle

Jaida Grey Eagle is an Oglala Lakota artist located in St. Paul. Grey Eagle is a photojournalist, producer, beadwork artist and writer. She is also a Report for America Fellow with the Sahan Journal, covering immigrant and refugee stories in the Twin Cities and an ongoing former Curatorial Fellow for the Minneapolis Institute of Art researching Indigenous photography. She holds her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts emphasized in Fine Art Photography from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

About Jaida's Portrait

Jaida Grey Eagle is highlighting the culture and meaning of dance and what it means to various communities throughout the Twin Cities in a time when our people are hurting and reeling from not only a racial reckoning but the hard-felt impacts of a pandemic.

These dances span many different times throughout history and many different communities, but each brings its own significance to today. Jaida believes dance to be healing in so many ways. She wishes to use this opportunity to honor the dancers for what they bring to us during this time. They are always showing up for the community and Jaida believes showing up for them is an honor.

Left to right in the picture: Gayatri, Atquetzali, Malgaren, Nina and Lue

Gayatri Narayanan

Gayatri is a dancer and healing justice organizer. She is committed to serving abolition and anti-caste movements and invites her community to be in relationship with her art as a practice of interrupting Brahmanical patriarchy and healing from white supremacy.

Atquetzali Quiroz — Traditional Azteca dancer

Atquetzali was born and raised in St. Paul, Mni Sota (Minnesota), homeland of the Dakota and Ojibwe peoples. She is a co-founder of Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli, a traditional Mexica dance group. Atquetzali co-teaches danza, song and philosophy classes with her family. She was a youth intern at Asian American Organizing Project as well as the Engagement Coordinator for Filipinx for Immigrant Rights & Racial Justice MN, organizations that emphasize the importance of civic engagement and social justice. As a youth organizer of Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center and co-founder of the International Indigenous Youth Council - Twin Cities Chapter, Atquetzali is able to learn and practice her passion for uplifting youth voices, language revitalization, traditional women’s wellness and preserving and protecting the waters and land

Malgaren Mekonen – Traditional Oromo dancer.

Nina Rose Berglund — Jingle dress dancer

Nina Berglund is an Indigenous youth leader, public speaker and climate activist fighting on behalf of her people, the lands and water. Born and raised in the Twin Cities, Nina has been organizing alongside other youth against Enbridge's Line 3 proposed pipeline — currently being pushed to be built in Northern Minnesota — to prevent the destruction, exploitation and violence that comes with it. Nina is extremely passionate about uplifting and supporting the voices of the youth in spaces where the native presence runs short. She regularly travels to different territories to support and make connections with communities most impacted by the climate crisis. She believes in looking towards and utilizing traditional values and methods as the crucial solutions and answers the world is frantically searching for. She stands strong as a fierce leader to honor her ancestors and bring hope and peace for the coming generations.

Lue “Finisher” Thao — Hip hop dancer, director and break dance Instructor

Lue Thao, also known as Bboy Finisher, is a professional dancer who teaches, travels and competes around the United States. In 2017, Lue founded Cypher Side Dance School and Studio with support from fellow collective artists from Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center. He is currently a member of Optimistic Crew and has been dancing for 13 years with seven years of teaching experience. Lue has won more than 20 competitions in Minnesota and beyond. Born in Thailand, Lue was raised in the East Side of St. Paul for the majority of his life and graduated from Harding High School. Lue has showcased on live TV for Fox 9 News and TPT. Lue also performs for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx halftime/quarter shows with a crew called First Avenue Breakers. Other special performances Lue has done are for Justin Timberlake’s half-time Super Bowl 52 show, Vanilla Ice for the I Love The 90s Tour and with Tori Kelly for the Prince Tribute Concert.

Meet Isabel Gloss

Isabel Gloss, born in the Midwest but raised around the world, is a photographer and visual artist working in Minneapolis. Her interest in photography stems from the time her father, a scientist and artist, first showed her how to use a 35mm camera as a child. She sources her Mexican heritage, gender and sexuality to create her work focusing on social equality and justice. As a Chicana woman in her early 20s who has felt the effects of inequality and prejudice, her focus is on the importance of bringing marginalized people to the front and revising stereotypes. When photographing portraits, Isabel makes sure that her subjects are projected in a powerful and celebratory light. As a student at the Minneapolis college of Art and Design, she achieved many awards and grants, such as the Hearst Merit Scholarship, the MCAD Presidential Correspondence Award, and the Morrison Leadership Scholarship. Her work has been featured in Baltimore Magazine as well as several group exhibitions such as Endless Anagrams and You’ve Never Made a Real Piece of Art. Gloss specializes in digital, medium format and large format film photography.

About Isabel's Portrait

Isabel Gloss is featuring Latine back-of-house workers. They are the ones who work in food prep, line cooking, dishwashing, etc. She wants to make sure they know that they are seen, and their hard work is appreciated. They need to know that other people recognize their determination and dedication. It’s the People is the perfect opportunity to make them feel honored and applauded.

Rafeala Lemus first worked for D’Amico restaurants at Masa on Nicollet Ave. Masa was a high-end Mexican cantina. When Masa closed, Rafa was offered a Chef 1 position at D’Amico’s lunch restaurant in International Market Square, The Bistro. This restaurant caters to high-end interior designers and their clientele. Rafa is a unique BOH Latina — most Latinas end up working in the dish pit or doing prep work. Rafa’s exceptional cooking skills led to her being a Chef 1, which is the head chef on the (cooking) line. Eventually, Rafa was able to hire and train her son, Luis. Currently, the two of them make up the entire BOH staff for The Bistro. Rafa’s chicken tinga tacos are so popular they were adopted into the D’Amico Catering menu and quickly became one of the most popular butler passed hors d’oeuvres. When Rafa travels to Mexico to visit her family, The Bistro clientele complain about the tacos. D’Amico finally took Taco Tuesday’s off the menu when Rafa is on vacation.

Angelo Bracero is the server’s assistant, and Marco Leon Gil is making his way to becoming the sous chef. Both are back-of-house workers at Fhima’s restaurant in downtown Minneapolis at 40 S 7th Street.

These portraits highlight and celebrate the dedicated restaurant back-of-house Latine workers of the Hennepin Theatre District. You may pass by them on the street or thank them when they bring you your food, and you may not pay them any other attention than that, but they are the ones that help make the Hennepin Theatre District so lively and joyful.

Meet Kristine Heykants

Kristine Heykants led high school students from The FAIR School for the Arts in exploring identity and social justice through the lens of photography, creating banner images to be displayed publicly on the school building exterior and billboards. This work started last year just before lockdown for the pandemic, preventing them from completing their workshops. Heykants picked up where they left off with many of the same students and some new as well. She is excited to build upon the themes of identity and social justice, bringing passion to inspire youth on their life journeys. She holds a master’s degree in Journalism and mass communications and a Bachelor of Fine Art in art and design. She has received grants from the Jerome Foundation, McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board and exhibits widely. Heykants also teaches photography at Minneapolis College.

About Kristine's Portraits with FAIR School Students

Using historic and contemporary examples as a point of departure, students investigated portraiture within the context of visual communications and personal expression, learning how photography can capture this particular moment in our shared lived history of the pandemic and social uprising.

While immersed in the creative process, students experimented with different personas through a mixture of visual research, reflection and technical instruction. After learning about layers of meaning in portraiture and its cousins the snapshot and selfie, they produced portraits that provide an empowering platform of visibility at this critical stage of their lives.

FAIR students started this workshop with Kristine just before schools were shut down in March of 2020 due to the pandemic. Since the students were unable to complete the workshops at that time, Kristine was invited back this year to pick up where they left off. The workshops that had started out exploring the theme of identity evolved to allow students to reflect on the impact the pandemic and social uprising had on their lives and the communities they live in.

The 2020 workshop was held in the photo studios at Minneapolis College. The 2021 workshop moved outdoors onto Hennepin Avenue to accommodate COVID restrictions. Kristine had fun seeing them get used to using the equipment. As they became more comfortable, their creativity blossomed. They experimented with backgrounds, angles, and lighting — it was a fantastic opportunity to get outside, be back with their classmates and learn new skills.

Participating Students

Max Allebach, Savion Black, Raeann Bryant-Tumble, Alex Carroll, Zachary Coats, Kaeko Coleman, Gray Coykendall, Robert Creadick, Clara Crone, Kayne Davis, Clara English, Dejanae Ferguson, Miguel Gomez Onofre, Emma Huffman, Jaime Dee Hunziker, My’Arose James, Mazhe Northup, Mikaila Prosper, Lizbeth Ruiz Bautista, Eliana Sander, Jadon Speranzella

Meet Awa Mally

Awa Mally is a Togolese photographer based in Minneapolis. Born in Togo, she immigrated with her family to Minnesota in 2003. She has always had an interest in arts and culture, and was involved in many youth programs growing up, despite not having much support. She was inspired to take on her passion after taking her first art opportunity outside of school at age 16 and joining the Walker Art Center’s teen arts program. She has been pursuing photography since 2016, when she started a social justice group with her peers and did photography for that group. As a self-taught photographer, she’s accomplished many things, such as working for local organizations like the Science Museum of Minnesota and Walker Art Center. Mally has been featured in Vice Magazine and shot the single cover for global musician Afro B. Her ultimate goal in life is to create programs for youth and marginalized people to gain more access to arts and technology, and to build bridges between cultures and communities.

About Awa's Portrait

Awa Mally’s theme for It’s the People is identity and empowerment. She is highlighting a young African artist who is breaking conventional narratives by pursuing a professional career in art. Her goal is to spotlight cultural hybrids whose visible creativity empowers those around them to embrace their own identities and heritage.

As the world is shifting, generational differences are becoming vaster; this results in children of immigrants being challenged with confronting their cultural expectations while exploring the new career possibilities available to them in the United States.

Awa’s chosen subject for this project is Papa Mbye. Papa is a 22-year-old interdisciplinary artist with a focus on visual art and music. He resides in North Minneapolis with his Senegalese and Gambian family. Inspired by the birds his mother drew to calm him, Papa picked up drawing at age three. Unfortunately, through judgment and lack of faith, Papa stopped drawing in the 9th grade, because he was convinced that art would not last as a viable profession — a common misconception within the immigrant community. Papa had to overcome the doubts from his family and peers to follow his heart. When Papa is experiencing mental blocks and mental health problems, he turns to drawing to keep him grounded. It enables him to create things he can't find in the present world. Since this decision to pursue art, Papa has gained great success as an artist and community member, teaching workshops at the MIA, working as a caricature artist for 5 to 10 on Hennepin and participating in group art shows at New Rules North, MCAD, Public Functionary and a solo art exhibit at Obsidian Arts.

Meet Andy Richter

Andy Richter is a visual artist based in Minneapolis. His work has been exhibited internationally, and he has received recognition from American Photography, Photolucida, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the International Photography Awards, among others. He is a multiple recipient of the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant. His first monograph, Serpent in the Wilderness, was published by Kehrer Verlag in 2018. Richter’s photographs have been featured in The New York Times, National Geographic Magazine, Leica Fotografie International, Time Magazine and GEO.

About Andy's Portrait

Andy Richter’s portrait is shining a light on individuals serving our homeless community through their ongoing work at the Harbor Light Center, the area’s largest homeless shelter. The portrait brings forward a new narrative — that serving others matters and those that serve in this capacity deserve recognition.

Darleen Phillips was one of the staff chosen by employees of Harbor Light to be featured in It’s the People. She shared her experience of the photo shoot and told us a little bit about how she got started working with people experiencing homelessness.

When asked how she felt when she was chosen to sit for the portrait, she said she didn’t think twice. “It was an exciting day for me. Only a few people knew what was going on, then they saw the lights and background being set up and got very interested.” She felt comfortable working with Andy and his team. They were very pleasant and made her feel right at home.

Darlene started her journey at Harbor Light as a client in 2014 in the BOAT program. Getting back to being a part of something and having responsibility again was important to her. She said that is something you just don’t have as an addict. She worked her way up to Sargent at Arms and began working security in 2015 while living upstairs at Harbor Light, which gave her the time and support needed to heal and give back. Darlene has held the position of shelter manager at Harbor Light for the past three years.

We often idealize individuals in our society of affluence, physical beauty and those who embody success in business, which perpetuates the notion that this is what matters. Particularly in an urban center, the images and photographs we see in our constructed environment exclude representation of everyday heroes who are making a very real difference in people’s lives. Andy’s portrait suggests that serving others matters, and the individuals that help deserve recognition and centering.

Aubrey Rhodes (pictured) – Lead Security Monitor. He has been with Harbor Light for four years.

Willis White – Harbor Light Advocate. He has been with Harbor light for two years.