Poor old ugly Hollywood Theater. In its 1930s heyday, it was a community gem. However, after years of being vacant and boarded, it has become a neighborhood embarrassment.
And now company’s coming.
Northeast’s annual May arts celebration, Art-A-Whirl, has become so popular that it typically attracts visitors from all over the city and state. Some Audubon Neighborhood Association members, including president Cindy Schulte, said they were worried that the blighted structure on Johnson Street NE would be a real turn-off to tourists. They started working on plans to spiff it up. They talked to the city, which owns the relic. They talked to local artists. Edison High School got involved.
Now there’s a plan to replace and paint the plywood on the front and decorate it with students’ paintings. The only thing is, it all has to happen fast.
Lorrie Stromme, aide to First Ward City Council Member Paul Ostrow, said that at first, “we thought that the Northeast Community Development Corporation (NE CDC) and the Audubon Neighborhood Association (ANA) had some money for the faÃ§ade, but it turned out they couldn’t use their money for it and they were disappointed. Paul Ostrow offered to make some money available from his office budget; each city council member gets $11,000 for things like printing, mailings, training, other extras. We talked to Sharrin Miller Bassi [project manager for the Hollywood redevelopment] of CPED, Community Planning and Economic Development, and she said there might be some maintenance money available. It was a collaboration with everybody trying to work out a solution, and we’re doing more with less.
“The Hollywood Theater [facade] will be a stop on the Art-A-Whirl tour bus,” Stromme added. “Local artists are stepping up. We’ve all met and there is a lot of enthusiasm.”
Windom Park resident Mark Wilde, who organized a call for artists for the paintings on the Eastside Foods Coop building, 3551 Central Ave. NE, is a past president of Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA). He said he has experience working with murals and will install the students’ artwork when it is finished. “I know about the materials, and what paint to use so it will look nice for a long time. “
Wilde contacted Edison art teacher Gabrielle Bliss, and together they started looking for a local artist willing to go into the classroom and work with students in her classes.
“We still haven’t found an artist,” he said, although last week he and Bliss both seemed to have come up with two possibilities.
Bliss said her students would start work on the project Monday, April 7. “About 60 students will be working on the mural in our Art and Community classes. It’s a class about how art serves the community. Students usually work on different community service projects. When the mural came up, it seemed like a perfect fit. The first six weeks are about mural painting anyway.”
She said she has had some difficulty finding a Northeast artist who wanted to drop everything and work full time with 60 kids on a tight deadline. “People said, â€˜Pick a team of five and we’ll talk.’ But I didn’t want to exclude anybody. There is also a huge time pressure; I’m sure we’ll have groups of the willing staying after school to work on it. We are supposed to be finished by May 9.”
ANA people told her they wanted the mural to be joyful, uplifting, and family oriented, without political statements. Bliss said she’s going to have to lay some groundwork with her students first, on the basics. “I was surprised to learn that some of my top students didn’t even know what a mural was. We’ll be talking about a theme, and hopefully that will generate ideas. The artist will work with the students and the student teacher, Kawan Olson, on the project. It will likely end up being a series of separate paintings, rather than one big mural.”
The total costs for the project haven’t been determined yet, but Bliss said Edison has been looking for money to pay the artist. The city money, from Ostrow’s office and CPED, will likely pay for the new plywood and the materials for the paintings.