The exterior of Anoka-Ramsey Community College is about to get a little more colorful.
The Minnesota State Arts Board selected Anoka-Ramsey Community College for an “arts learning” grant of nearly $56,000 in July to go toward painting a mural this school year.
The mural will envelope the theme of community and will be designed by faculty, staff and students of the college. Minneapolis artist Greta McLain and GoodSpace Murals are leading the project.
“Her (McLain’s) process is very much about community participation,” Rachel Breen, of the Anoka-Ramsey art department, said. “She doesn’t just come in and paint a mural. She does a really interesting community-based process where people participate. Even if you’re not an artist, even if you don’t know how to draw, even if you’ve never picked up a paintbrush, you can participate in helping to design the mural and also helping to paint it.”
The mural is set to be designed this fall with the help of the Anoka-Ramsey community, Breen said. The process will consist of brainstorming imagery, patterns and themes that the designers think represent community. McLain will then outline the piece to make it cohesive before painting begins in the spring.
Breen said they’ll ask what community means to the students, staff and faculty at the college.
“It’s very general, but it’s also very specific,” Breen said. “We all have very personal ways we connect to that phrase.”
When it comes to a sense of community at the college, Breen said the stronger, the better. When students, staff and faculty feel welcomed, she said the learning process is stronger.
McLain uses a material called parachute cloth, a thin cloth that’s stuck to the wall after it’s painted. That allows anyone to help paint because the cloth doesn’t require people to get up on a ladder to work.
“The ideas of access and participation are really key here,” Breen said. “This process really allows participation in the painting process.”
The location of the mural at Anoka-Ramsey has yet to be determined. The grant allows for the creation of a 100-square-foot mural, so the school still has to find a spot that would allow a painting that large. Another option is for the mural to be split into two paintings in separate locations, Breen said.
Upon hearing the college had received the grant, Breen was thrilled, she said.
Sue Gens, the executive director of the Minnesota State Arts Board, said the selection process for the board’s grants is very competitive. Only about half of those who apply for a grant actually get one.
Gens said the “arts learning” grants are for learning and teaching opportunities, which is why Anoka-Ramsey received money for its mural.
“It’s about a high quality arts experience and learning experience,” Gens said.
Breen said she is excited for Coon Rapids to have some public art, because the area is lacking compared to Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“It’s not really just for the school,” Breen said. “It’s for the community, and there will be opportunities not just for people associated with the school, but people in the surrounding area even to participate in the design process.”
In addition to the college, the Minnesota State Arts Board gave grants to three other Anoka schools and arts organizations:
• Crossroads School and Vocational Center, $7,020. This grant is to pay for the residencies of Dunyia Drum and Dance group to increase student exposure to music and diversity.
• Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts, $37,070. This grant is for a Monkey Mind Pirates residency, as well as family workshops, community performance and professional development.
• Lyric Arts Main Street Stage, $63,260. This grant will go toward operating costs.