Photo: William Hurst
Jonathan Thunder & Lincoln Park Middle School students (LPMS) - May 2018
In the space that probably has one of the best views of Lincoln Park and Lake Superior is where the first truly community-created mural in Lincoln Park resides. This unnamed mural in the cafetorium of our neighborhood school was part of a collaboration between the College of St. Scholastica (CSS) and Lincoln Park Middle School (LPMS) as part of CSS’s Mural Initiative Project that matches a visiting artist and CSS students with kids to make art. This project exposes both student groups to kids in different age groups and the younger kids to college during visits to campus throughout the project. Previous Mural Initiatives had taken place at Laura MacArthur Elementary, Safe Haven, and Harbor City School. The Lincoln Park neighborhood was chosen for the third year of the program by Associate Professor and Director Sarah Brokke Erickson and funded by CSS and the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council (ARAC).
Jonathan Thunder was the visiting artist chosen for the LPMS project with Paul LaJeunesse as the Teaching Artist and Project Lead. They worked with LPMS Art Teacher Chrissy Valento and her 8th Grade Visual arts students using the theme “What is it like growing up in Lincoln Park?”
During a workshop with the kids and a couple of preliminary meetings, the students created drawings based on the theme. Thunder then touched up a few things for consistency, suggested colors and brought back a pencil drawing from which to start. Thunder also added a few images seen in his own work to infuse some Ojibwe storytelling with a Mishi Bizhiw (Great Lynx) and a Spaceship Shapeshifter. “The kids were so engaged and into it!” noted Valento.
The kids were bussed to CSS to work on the mural. For many, this was the first time they had been on a college campus and given an opportunity to see themselves in a college setting. LaJeunesse translated the design and oversaw much of the painting, CSS students worked with Valento to coordinate the work, and Thunder popped in to fine-tune for consistency and mentor the budding muralists. During the creation of the mural, Karen Sunderman of WDSE-TV documented the activity (below). Valento was thrilled to see students who normally hung back and didn’t often participate vocally in class stepping up to speak on the video. Sunderman noticed the excitement with the students, “It was magical. They worked with the kids over time and helped native kids be seen and non-native kids understand. The kids got to pick and be recognized.”
After some struggles with getting the piece installed, the mural was installed and celebrated in May of 2018. “The kids were so happy when it went up. The best part was that it empowered them,” said Thunder. Until now, the student artists have not been recognized for their work, but Valento held onto the list in hopes of having the artists noted near the piece. “These kids are now in high school. I can’t wait to let them know that they finally have their names attached to the work.”
Photos: Shannon Laing, William Hurst, Chrissy Valento
Lincoln Park Middle School, 3215 W 3rd St (indoor mural in the Lincoln Park Middle School cafetorium)