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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Hamline Midway Library mosaic mural is made by many hands

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Calvin

More than 100 participants helped build the mosaic one tile at a time, over the course of three workshop days. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
More than 100 people gathered at the Hamline Midway Library, 1558 W Minnehaha Ave., Mar. 22-24 to create a colorful tile mural designed by community mosaic artist Lori Greene. Once complete, the 3’ X 7’ mural will be permanently attached to the library’s east-facing fireplace wall.

Library manager Shelly Hawkins said, “The Hamline Library is a community library in every sense of the word. We wanted to fund a community engagement project that would be accessible to everybody. The Hamline Midway Coalition donated funds to hire Lori Greene; the Midway Men’s Club contributed, and our library had money for the project also. The theme of the mural is nature in the urban world.”

During February, library patrons were asked for their input about how to portray nature in the city. They contributed words, photos, and drawings, and Greene translated all that information into an urban landscape outlined on mesh backing. She cut the material into several smaller sections, and mosaic makers as young as three helped to glue cut pieces of tile onto it—making bees, dragonflies, rabbits, birds, and plants come to life.

“We’re what’s called a Nature Smart Library,” Hawkins explained, “so this project felt like a natural extension of our library’s values. Our philosophy is that you can learn about nature wherever you are. As part of our Nature Smart mission, we’ve assembled several backpacks for families to check out. The backpacks contain books, toys, equipment, and other supplies on a variety of themes including birds, trees, frogs, urban animals, and more. Sun Ray, St. Anthony, Riverview, and Merriam Park are also participating Nature Smart Libraries.”

Melissa Cortez is the community organizer/communications specialist with the Hamline Midway Coalition, one of the project partners. “Shelly and I worked together on this project,” she said. “Shelly had done something similar when she was at another St. Paul library. She knew it would be a great way for staff to interact with the Hamline Library patrons, and for the patrons to connect with each other in ways that they wouldn’t normally get to do. You could see that happening at the work tables during the mosaic workshops: there were teens working alongside senior citizens and little kids, and people were sharing their ideas about how everything was coming together.”

“As the Hamline Midway Coalition community organizer,” Cortez said, “my part in this project was to get input from community groups like the Hamline Midway Elders, families using the nearby Hancock Recreation Center, neighborhood businesses, staff, parents, and students at Hamline Elementary School. We recently partnered with Hamline Elementary School on their fence weaving project along Snelling Avenue, so neighbors were already excited about participating in a public art project. The inspiration for what should be included in the mosaic came from all of them.”

Community mosaic artist Lori Green lives in the Hamline Midway neighborhood and her business, Mosaic on a Stick, is there too at 1564 Lafond Ave. She said, “I’ve done more community art projects than I can even count any more, and it’s amazing—they always work. I made a decision early on not to be at the library during the building days. After all the ideas came in, I laid out how the project would flow. I don’t believe in micro-managing. With community art-making, you have to trust the process and give people a chance to figure things out. They create a community within themselves, rather than relying on being told what to do. That’s a beautiful thing!”

The mosaic mural should be up and ready for viewing by the end of April.

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