How can a new school introduce itself to a community? Folwell Performing Arts Magnet School in south Minneapolis is using principals of placemaking and robust community engagement to create and install a 2,000 sq. ft. public mural to say “hello” to their neighborhood.
Folwell, located at the border of the Corcoran and Standish neighborhoods (20th Ave S & E. 36th St.), was reopened in 2012 as a K-8 school after the former middle school had been shuttered for three years. The new school is not well known to many neighbors, and a public art project called the Folwell Connections Mural is an opportunity to re-imagine the setting of the school to strengthen community connections.
Muralist Greta McLain is leading a community-driven design and painting process with hundreds of volunteers. The mural design has been co-created with students and community members at a series of design events over last fall and winter. Students and neighbors are also painting the mural at painting parties held this spring and summer.
For this mural McLain is using an innovative, indirect mural technique called “parachute cloth method”, a method pioneered by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. In this technique, the mural is not painted on a wall, but is painted on to fabric, then assembled into larger panels and then attached to building walls. This technique respects the historic fabric of the masonry brick exterior of Folwell School, and is a great way for many people to take part in painting the mural without climbing scaffolding.
Community outreach best practices are being used at design events and painting parties. Folwell has a large population of Spanish-speaking students and families, all information and communications are translated, and bilingual school staff and muralists introduce events and provide painting instruction. Food and music are included, and the design and painting work are held in conjunction with other events like school performances and neighborhood events like a soup supper, holiday tree lighting ceremony, and ice cream socials.
The mural is a direct result of collaboration between the artist, school staff and administration, two neighborhoods groups, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. McLain, who is an alumnus of the performing arts program, approached the school and neighborhood groups with the mural proposal and a desire to pursue a Minnesota State Arts Board grant. Standish Ericsson Neighborhood Association (SENA) was the lead applicant for the grant and both Corcoran Neighborhood Organization and SENA have coordinated design and painting events along with Folwell School.
McLain’s public art is making a huge impact all over Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Green Central School mural & Central Identity Project, Plaza Verde’s “Juntos Crecemos/Together We Grow”, the Franklin Ave. Light Rail Bridge, Midway Murals, along with work at Roosevelt and South High schools are just a few of the many projects she has led locally. With more than 10 years of mural making, McLain has also created and painted murals in Argentina, Mexico, France, Memphis, and Philadelphia. See more of her amazing art here: www.gretamclain.tumblr.com.
Upcoming community painting parties are open to the public so you can take part in the mural making. This weekend, attend the the Roosevelt Mosaic Art Crawl and Folwell Carnival; and come to the Midtown Farmers Market on Saturday June 6, and at the Sibley Park Ice Cream Social on June 18. Mural installation will happen over the summer and a party for the unveiling will happen as school starts in late August.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.