South Minneapolis Residents Bring Students and Artists Together to Transform Bridge

The “River Memory” mural will be dedicated November 11th.

Read the article in the Star Tribune to learn more about LCC’s funding and support for the project.

36th ART (Avenue Revitalization & Transformation), a resident-led coalition of Seward and Longfellow community stakeholders in partnership with SPRAYFiNGER® and Hiawatha Collegiate High School (HCHS) are engaged in transforming the railroad/Greenway bridge over 36th Avenue South, with the production of two large 80-foot wall murals. The aging bridge, built in 1908, is part of the final stretch of rail before it crosses the Mississippi River. The goals of the project are to transform the bridge into an attractive, valued gateway between the Seward and Longfellow neighborhoods and to artistically engage high school youth in an initiative to turn an eyesore in the community into a place of meaning and pride.

“The goal was to reimagine the bridge as an interpretive landmark and a connecting point for our two neighborhoods. The vision expanded and we now seek to partner on more public art along the blocks north and south of the bridge,” said Jack Becker, 36th ART Project Manager.

The group sought out a partnership with nearby Hiawatha Collegiate High School, which had already established an after-school public art club. In response to this mural opportunity, HCHS established what Becker believes is the first high school-level public
art class in the state. Under the leadership of teachers Derek Davidson and Bryan Daly, Dean of College and Community at HCHS, 15 students signed up for the class. 36th ART members sought Peyton Scott Russell and his SPRAYFiNGER® team to partner on the project and bring the mural to life.

Peyton, founder of SPRAYFiNGER®, is a pioneering teaching artist who has helped hundreds of youths to learn mural-making techniques and participate in the process. SPRAYFiNGER® artists Simone Alexa and Reggie LeFlore are overseeing the bridge project and mentoring the students on all aspects of ideation, design, execution, production, and installation.

“We are extremely grateful for this partnership with 36th ART. The creativity and collaboration at play is inspiring and it reminds our young people that they belong and that this community is ours together.” — Nicole Cooley, HCHS Principal.

Through daily one-hour public art classes and a series of six three-hour workshops, 36th ART and SPRAYFiNGER® engaged HCHS students in the research and context of the bridge site, including the history of the neighborhood, its indigenous roots, and its local
landmarks. Students decided on images of youth and elder generations, the Mississippi River, housing and architecture in the neighborhood, native plants, sunrise and sunset themes, poems, maps of the neighborhood, and the Brackett Park rocket sculpture. All images are compiled in a collage-like manner to create a story and overall theme of the neighborhood. The murals are slated for completion the end of October. All are welcome to see the work in progress and can drive by the location and perhaps see SPRAYFiNGER® artists and students in the mural making in process.

“We are hopeful this mural will positively engage all who pass by. The many elements of storytelling and themes to be found within these two murals will be discovered and rediscovered each time the mural is viewed.” — SPRAYFiNGER®

A community celebration and dedication of the mural is planned for Saturday, November 11th from 1:00 – 4:00 pm on the HCHS campus at 3500 E. 28th St., and within walking distance to the bridge. For event details follow:

Funding is made possible by the Lake Street Council’s Placemaking & Vibrancy Grant program, Seward Neighborhood Group, Xcel Energy, TruStone Financial, the Longfellow Community Council, anonymous donors, and in-kind support from One
Simple Plan.

For inquiries about this project, additional photographs, and interviews, contact:

Jack Becker, 36th ART, Project Manager,

Photos: Bridge details before painting work began. Photos by ©Jack Becker.

Photos: Mural painting in process. Photos by ©Jack Becker.


About 36th ART:
36th ART (Avenue Revitalization & Transformation) is a volunteer group of neighborhood residents working to address safety, accessibility, aesthetics, and interpretive wayfinding along 36th Avenue from East Lake Street to 25th Street East in Minneapolis. 36th Avenue is an important corridor connecting the Seward and Longfellow neighborhoods. The group brings together local artists, residents, and businesses to reimagine overlooked and under-loved spaces along the corridor, transforming them into safe, accessible places filled with public art, nature, and opportunities for community connection. The group hopes to highlight what is possible
when caring people bring their collective energy, creativity, networks, and fresh ideas to address long standing problems with new possibilities.

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