Meet muralist Elise Kyllo

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Elise Kyllo has a passion for public art. She is the local artist and teacher who guided volunteers in painting murals on four commercial buildings in the Standish and Ericsson neighbor- hoods (Heart Foods, Dream Haven Books, Hennepin Overland Railway Museum, and Nokomis Pet Clinic) and on the fence at Flag Foods. A sixth mural depicting historic Rice Lake (Lake Hiawatha today) is under way for the TransPrint building on 28th Ave. and 38th St.

Elise’s work as a neighborhood muralist began in 2006 with two murals at the intersection of Cedar Ave. and 34th St. Disheart- ened by the cycle of graffiti and drab paint-overs at Modern Window Shade and the Shell gas station, Elise approached the owners and offered to paint murals on their buildings. The mu- rals became the impetus for the Youth Mural Project-which, to date, has resulted in 13 murals on businesses and residential garages in the Corcoran Neighborhood.

SENA’s Graffiti Task Force heard about Elise’s work and hired her for the Take Back 38th Street mural project in 2008. Task force members selected the graffiti hot spots, obtained grant money for paint and other supplies, and recruited volunteers. Elise consulted with building owners on mural themes and colors. Although the purpose of the murals is to deter graffiti, Elise also sees them as an important way to build community and spread positive energy in the neighborhood. Thus far, more than 100 adults and children have participated in SENA’s mural projects.

Although no artistic experience is required, Elise’s projects are not “paint-by-number.” Elise supplies the concept and perhaps sketches some broad outlines, but she encourages people to use their own creativity. On the Flag Foods project, for example, she showed the participants an illustrated Iranian folktale and let them decide what to paint.

Elise loves the process of community art. She describes it as “exciting” and “magical”-but often nerve wracking. She never knows for sure how many people will show up or how the project will turn out. With the successful completion of 23 community murals, she has learned to trust the unpredictable process of volunteers of all ages and abilities coming together to create something beautiful.

Elise would like to see mural painting move indoors. She visualizes people painting the interior walls of their homes, perhaps even having mural-painting parties for birthdays and other celebrations. “After all,” she says, “if the mural doesn’t work out, you can always paint over it!” Elise Kyllo (pronounced kai-low), who is also a landscape designer and gardener, can be reached at (612) 722-3137 or ekyllo@hotmail.com. If you would like to view some of Elise’s outdoor murals, visit http://www.corcoranneighbor- hood.org/murals.html. It’s an amazing Web site.