Combine a City of Minneapolis graffiti elimination grant, a strong desire to remember a victim of a long-ago serial killing and mix in what some call a “cowboy” neighborhood and add a headstrong American Indian artist. The result is a stunning 40-foot mural coming to life in South Minneapolis.
Located in a foreground view of Minneapolis’ downtown towers is a scene depicting an old Ojibwe dance drum surrounded by jingle dress dancers in a grassy meadow that runs somewhere under Highway 55, perhaps even sharing space with the Light Rail Maintenance Depot. Huh? Well that’s what it appears to be when you stand at the intersection of South 16th Avenue and East 18th Street. You just have to see it yourself.
This mural is the Ventura Village neighborhood’s effort to eliminate a longstanding eyesore blighting a hidden corner of the neighborhood that has been the taggers’ bulletin board for decades. Robert Albee, Ventura Village’s elected secretary wrote two grants—one to the City of Minneapolis and another to the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) to secure the funds to hire artist Lisa Brown to paint this mural. The painting honors the memory of Angie White Bird, a young Bad River tribal member who became a victim of a serial killer very near to the spot where the mural is being painted. Ms. Brown spoke with family members and received their blessing to honor Angie’s memory with this painting. Her mural also honors more than 55 homeless Native people who have died in this vicinity during the past two decades.
Brown, a former Minneapolis College of Arts & Design student worked with Sammy Watso at the Minneapolis American Indian Center during the early 1990’s. She exhibits a painterly style completely different from the recently completed Nicollet Avenue murals by the Wall Dogs. Currently homeless herself, Brown chose to operate her one-woman art studio out of the trunk of her parked Pontiac Grand Am. She declined an artist’s support system used by Lyndale Neighborhood during the Wall Dogs’ mural marathon a couple of weeks earlier. She prefers simply working alone.
The mural was unveiled at a public ceremony on Saturday, August 16th, attended by the White Bird family of Odanah, Wisconsin. The event included a traditional drum group led by Chuck White Bird of Wisconsin and several songs by Native singer/songwriter Michael Bucher, also from Wisconsin. City Council Vice Chairman Robert Lilligren (himself a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe), represents the Sixth Ward where the mural is located; he formally received the mural for the City of Minneapolis.