September 16, 2015
Written by and photos by Margie O'Loughlin
Previously published by Monitor Saint Paul. Click here for the original article.
The Midway Art Festival went off without a hitch on Sat., Aug. 29 at Hamline Park on the corner of Snelling and Thomas avenues. The event was a gift to the neighborhood from Midway Murals and the African Economic Development Solutions’ Little Africa initiative.
Photo right: The Streetcorner Letterpress in action, making prints one-at-a-time, the old fashioned way.
The six-hour festival was a celebration of art as a force for positive community change. It was also the unveiling of four new murals, created by four different artists, and spanning six blocks of the newly re-constructed Snelling Ave.
Photo left: “Hooperina” with four hula-hoops in motion at the same time.
The thread that ties all four of the murals together is the common theme of “starting anew.”
The area around Snelling and University is home to many East African residents and business owners who have started anew. The hope of Jonathan Oppenheimer, Midway Murals creator, is that the murals will enliven and unify the neighborhood, bringing people into more conversation and connection with each another.
Photo right: Project creator Jonathan Oppenheimer, whose life has been a wonderful juggling act lately, said, “Today is a day to appreciate all the hard work that has gone into Midway Murals, and I’m very proud of all the people who’ve lent a hand. In the end, this project is about making the community stronger. ”
Photo left: Assistant Jesse Golfis and artist Yuya Negishi stood in front of their mural (689 Snelling Ave.), “Birth of a New Day,” completed at 2am on the morning of the Midway Arts Festival.
Yuya Negishi’s Japanese-inspired mural graces the outside of Kim’s Oriental (Korean) Market at 689 Snelling Ave. Negishi worked with assistants Jesse Golfis and Aric Larson for two straight weeks painting the mural, going through more than 100 cans of spray paint and struggling against strong winds and rain. The rising phoenix and glorious sun are a testimony to the power of perseverance when starting anew.
Photo right: Spray paint artist Eric “the Blaster” Mattheis painted the mural outside the Snelling Café at 638 Snelling Ave. Areas of softness like the dove’s feathers symbolize the opportunities for a peaceful convergence of ideas, beliefs and friendships.
“Convergence” reflects the galaxy of colorful cultures that dot the earth. According to Oppenheimer, “Mattheis brought an important street element to the project. Seeing work this great helps overcome the stigma of graffiti and spray paint as being renegade.”
Lori Greene’s Ethiopian-inspired mural at 555 Snelling Ave. was finished the day before the opening. Employee Adrienne Sherman said, “The piece is called “Berbere” and, for me, the installation was the best part. We spent so many hours in the parking lot outside the African Plaza. With mosaic, you install the images one at a time. The pieces of broken, colored tile had been assembled into separate parts back at the studio. As we’d lift each one in place, people loved seeing them go up on the wall.”
Greta McLain created a brilliantly colored and attention-getting mural at 512 Snelling Ave. (See photo left) titled “Braided.” Gene Gelgelu, executive director of The African Economic Development Solutions, said, “Greta was able to mentor two talented African artists on this project: Hanna Gashaw and Sara Endalew. They came out of this experience very excited about this mural specifically, but also more confident about their emerging careers as artists.”
Free food from different traditions was available at each of the four locations. The festival at Hamline Park featured Poetry on Demand with Tim Blighten, Jon Reynolds’ Street-corner Letterpress, a Paint the Pavement project to jazz up the park, music from DJ Superbrush 427 and River Beats Entertainment, and live music and dance by East African artists.
Check out this clip to learn more about the new Midway Murals: