West Bank organization calls for more art along Cedar Avenue

Artists from the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and beyond have expressed interest in contributing to a public art project.

Allen Christian works on a

Carter Blochwitz

Allen Christian works on a “little library” made out of an old Star Tribune box, keyboard keys, and many other spare parts in his Cedar-Riverside gallery, House of Balls, Saturday, Feb. 10. Christian is developing several ideas for art installations along Cedar Ave as part of WBBA’s effort to bring more art to the street.

Carter Blochwitz

Cedar-Riverside business leaders are looking to bring more art to their neighborhood. 

A project led by the West Bank Business Association aims to attract local artists to design functional and culturally-relevant art along Cedar Avenue. Local artists and community members gathered at WBBA meetings last week to discuss the project and how to receive financial assistance for their work. 

“What we’re hoping with these projects on Cedar Avenue is that they’re used by the neighborhood for years to come,” said WBBA Executive Director Jamie Schumacher. “Culturally-relevant artwork for the neighborhood — a walking mural, something that traces visually the immigrant history of the neighborhood.”

Schumacher said the WBBA plans to subsidize projects for 20 to 25 local artists, and will help participants craft public art proposals for City approval. 

The organization is providing this support because gaining approval from Minneapolis city officials can be a lengthy process, she said. 

One of the project’s potential artists, Allen Christian, owns the gallery and artist studio House of Balls in Cedar-Riverside. Christian, who uses metalwork and found materials to craft art, said he has several ideas for the project.

“It would be interesting to do a series of [benches] along Cedar related to the culture in [the area],” Christian said. “Something to do with Somalia — something related to the immigration ground-zero that the West Bank has been for a hundred years.”

The WBBA’s public art project will be funded by a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and pending National Endowment for the Arts funding. Once an artist has their project approved, Schumacher said they would be eligible for a stipend of up to $15,000 for their time and effort.

Proposal submissions are open through March. The WBBA and community members will review each project proposal in April and May.

“We’re really looking at the audience that’s going to be using public art, so we’re thinking about 6,000 people that live here and the people that work here,” Schumacher said.

The idea for this project grew out of several years of “pop-up” art and clean-up efforts done through a collaboration between WBBA and Augsburg University.

The pop-ups ranged from art installations to little free libraries, including pop-up gardens and parks as well. 

Through an independent study conducted by the WBBA, the organization found that graffiti and litter was significantly reduced in the neighborhood in the months following artistic and community efforts.

“We saw that after we did the clean-up and the art, it really did reduce the amount of litter and graffiti because those areas were more cared for,” Schumacher said.

Ifrah Mansour, another artist invited to participate in the project, said she appreciates WBBA’s efforts to improve the community.

“I hear through [neighborhood elders] that there are some parts [of the neighborhood] that aren’t friendly or welcoming,” Mansour said. “I really do appreciate what West Bank is doing to help.”