On Sunday, September 9, it almost seemed like some of the art had spilled out of the Minneapolis Institute of Art and onto the street at the foot of the 24th street pedestrian bridge. Artists in Storefronts, Interact Center and Bridging Minneapolis sponsored the day’s events to “create a community bridge” from Whittier to Phillips neighborhoods.
Families and friends were arrayed in feathers, neighbors wore whimsical hats and people stood in the shade of gorgeously decorated umbrellas. Dallas Johnson, artist and neighborhood activist invited the crowd to chalk their greetings on to the pavement in as many languages as the group could share. Shouts of “Velcommen, Bienvenidos, Salam, Shalom, Habari,” followed each person’s writing. As the parade assembled and ascended the bridge, the noise of the traffic mingled with strains of music coming from the West Phillips side.
Midway on the bridge the crowd stopped to write their wishes for the neighborhood and themselves on strips of colorful fabric. The wind blew these wishes out to the world as the strips were tied to the bridge links.
The community-led initiative, in partnership with Interact Center and Bridging Minneapolis, will use visual art, a parade, music, dance, design, and more to connect the South Minneapolis neighborhoods and the 20,000 or so diverse neighbors who make up these unique communities.
The Sunday afternoon “Bridging Festival” closes out the second run of the Whittier Artists in Storefronts project, which turns vacant or underused storefronts along the Eat Street corridor into ongoing artist exhibition spaces.
Whittier and Phillips were once a vibrant, undivided community prior to the construction of 35W in the late 60’s. Neighbors lobbied until the 24th St. pedestrian bridge was installed in 1971 to connect them once again.
Dallas remembered last year’s inaugural Bridging Festival and a quiet 17-year-old participant named Patrick Nolan. He presented a poem he had written while on the bridge that day. This poem was read aloud by the group, a reminder of “the unity in community”.
“The laughter from our children will always be louder than these cars,
They can separate us physically,
But we can all see the same stars.
Remove our houses and yards, but never our hearts,
Cause the word community is unity ….
So let us stop and take in this wealth that has no need for a budget,
Because spirit is funded by us so no government can cut it.”
The parade continued across the bridge and descended a staircase festooned with colorful fabric art to strains of music. More neighbors joined in and the party moved to an empty lot near the bridge. Patrick Nolan sums it up in his poem.
“So WE stand strong, but never still.
We pursue our dreams until our dreams are fulfilled,
And that’s why WE are here.
Cause without things like this,
We would disappear.”
For more information of upcoming “Bridge Shenanigans” go to www.bridgingminneapolis.com