#ArtConnectsUs July 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.

BREATHE by Ta-coumba Tyrone Aiken

This art addresses the sad truth about racism, The first action given at birth is to breathe. This has been denied to my people, The systematic laws to stop us from breathing is as old as slavery. Whether by knee, choke holds, health, educational, and financial, disparities etc., This must stop. We will fight to breathe.

Ta-coumba T. Aiken’s public role as an artist is “community-building and beautification. “I create my art to heal the hearts of the people and their communities by evoking a positive spirit.” He gives his audience a continuous experience that is subtle and dynamic. Aiken believes his role is to listen, interpret and inspire, becoming a weaver of ideas. His work is interactive, a silent, uninterrupted dialogue between the viewer and the artwork. Learn more about Aiken: www.ta-coumba.com

Don’t Throw This Away by FaceMePorFavor

The idea is to showcase the real faces and stories of residents during this time and bring awareness to our neighbors here in Minnesota and across the world. No one is alone right now, and this project is about reminding us that community isn’t just a locally used term. Humanity is all a part of the same community and this billboard can deliver a message of solidarity. These portraits are of residents around the globe who have shared their stories with the project, “Don’t Throw This Away.” This billboard is an open invitation to participate.

From FaceMePorFavor: We are both street artists and muralists, focusing on artwork that has more purpose than being art for art’s sake. With our art we strive to educate, build bridges, and bring beauty to the urban environment. Learn more about FaceMePorFavor: www.facemeporfavor.com

Justice for All by Andrew K. Hammond

This piece is a collage/mixed media, representing the many countries around the world that are protesting on behalf of justice for people of all races, particularly taking a stand against the disparities and tragedy of discrimination against African-Americans and police brutality. The death of George Floyd has been the catalyst for the movement, which I believe may be the beginning of a transition to a better world for us all!

From Andrew K. Hammond: My work focuses on expressing the people in the African American dispersion, which is an important undertaking in a society filled with historical mythology. People say my most expressive works are my collages which provoke thought and create visual disputation and resolve.

Never Forget by Christopher E. Harrison

Text reads: Never Forget, Black Lives Matter. Listing of names of Blacks who have been killed while during encounters with police. Face down Black abstract figure with blood spilling out from its head on blue background.

Christopher E. Harrison (1965) currently lives and works his studio practice in Minneapolis as a visual artist, illustrator and graphic designer. Harrison has created public art for North Minneapolis as well. He is currently a Museum Arts Educator at Walker Art Center. Learn more about Harrison: www.harrisonartstudio.net

triptych_5172 by Galen Higgins

This Triptych features images of dancers who have studied and trained in Minnesota. They are connected by their shared history in Minnesota, and continue to spread that connection across communities around the world, tying all of those they come into contact with into one continuous story. Knowledge gained is knowledge shared. Passion found is inspiration manifested.

Galen Higgins is a Minnesota raised dancer, photographer, and designer. He primarily creates images with dancers. Follow Higgins at @GalenHig

We're Still Here by Kulture Klub Collaborative

A collection of work by various Kulture Klub Collaborative youth artists.

Kulture Klub Collaborative (KKC) engages art and artistic practice to provide enriching opportunities for youth ages 16-24 experiencing homelessness and artists to grow individually and to transform community. Learn more about KKC: www.kultureklub.org

RESET by Mary Plaster

Worldwide pandemic and subsequent isolation measures have caused sudden extreme chaos for all of humanity, exposing vast flaws and inequities in our present systems. RESET dreams this unique time as opportunity to rethink, reimagine, and recreate a new global story, post COVID-19, that incorporates and puts into practice the very best of our knowledge and values.

Mary Plaster is a multi-disciplinary visual artist, facilitator and activist; artistic director/founder of Duluth All Souls Night. Learn more about Plaster: www.maryplaster.com


When a social contract is broken it’s up to the community to renegotiate what is given power. The elements and symbols featured are from the global Black diaspora. The main figure is an Nkisi Nkondi or power figure from the Congo. Its purpose is to serve as a spiritual and visual marker for a deal or contract. It is a reminder of oaths as well as a guardian or avenger. The hammer and nails become metaphors for promises made and damages done to the Black community. Also featured is an ostrich feather, a symbol for the Egyptian god of justice: Maat. The background pattern is derived from the Adinkra symbol Sepow representing justice. The maroon color palette is also a reference to Black communities. The piece is a commentary on the blended nature of the African diaspora’s origin and the pursuit of justice that has fueled Black communities for centuries.

From Connor Rice (CRICE): I’m a mixed-media artist from Minneapolis. I take visual inspiration from hieroglyphs and graffiti. My work chronicles the issues and motifs of pan-Africanist realities across time and space. By employing ancient symbols and blending them with a modern sensibility, my art seeks to distort our preconceived notions of human history. More about CRICE: www.criceinternational.com

collectively we support your autonomy by Monica Sheets

“collectively we support your autonomy” reflects on the dynamic paradox of our social interdependence. We do not exists as individuals in a state of nature prior to society, but rather our ability to express ourselves as individuals is created by the society in which we live. The COVID-19 pandemic reveals this tension in new ways when maintaining community health relies on our individual actions, like wearing a mask to protect others.

Monica Sheets creates platforms for communication as a means of civic engagement for herself and other participants. She was born in Toledo, Ohio and her experiences growing up in the Rust Belt were pivotal to her decision to work directly with participants, coming from a desire to reach audiences who might not normally visit galleries and museums. More about Sheets: monicasheets.com

Different, not less by Jessica Williams

Jessica’s artwork contains a quote from the prominent author and speaker Dr. Temple Grandin. The quote is ”different, not less". Jessica’s message is whether you have a disability or maybe were born not looking "normal" you are “different, not less”. It’s short simple phrase that may be little but says a whole lot.

Jessica Williams is an emerging artist from the Twin Cities Metro Area. Her vibrant artwork often includes a combination of representational imagery like animals and body parts with geometric abstraction. Jessica’s work regularly blends her sense of humor with social commentary. Follow Williams on Instagram at @jwilliams_art