Spreading awareness through art: Art for Water mural to be installed in Lyndale community garden

With help from members of the Lyndale neighborhood, artist Alex Dresdner creates a new mural as a part of Minnesota Water Stewards “Art for Water” program.

Volunteer+painting+the+mural+at+Art+4+Water+event+at+Zion+Lutheran+Church+on+July+7+in+Minneapolis%2C+Minn.

Alice Bennett

Volunteer painting the mural at Art 4 Water event at Zion Lutheran Church on July 7 in Minneapolis, Minn.

Frankie Carlson

“To honor and protect the water is our responsibility.”

This quote by environmental activist Winona LaDuke sits bold in the top right corner of the Lyndale neighborhood’s latest public art piece. The mural’s artist, Alex Dresdner, chose this quote for the piece because of its clear message: water should not be taken for granted.

Dresdner is the latest artist in the Minnesota Water Stewards “Art for Water” program. Developed in 2013, the project trains and assists artists to create work that advocates for awareness of local freshwater resources. Dresdner set out to create a mural with the hopes that it would inspire members of the Lyndale community to engage in sustainable practices surrounding water preservation.

The mural is set to go up on display in a community garden on the corner of 34th Street and Nicollet Avenue within the coming weeks.

Co-manager of the garden, Devin Hogan, spoke on the role the mural will play in the public space.

“I think the mural will be helpful in reminding people of the way our water systems are integrated,” Hogan said. “The lakes are more than recreation or nice things to look at, they’re part of an ecosystem. Part of the role of the garden is to take water that would normally just be storm runoff on a vacant lot and turn it into a way to grow food and sink water into the ground to recharge the aquifers.”

Standing 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide, the intricate blue and green painting displays not only the visual beauty of our local freshwater, but also facts and data demonstrating the importance of clean water policies in Minnesota.

Dresdner organized a live painting event to get the community involved. On July 7, Zion Lutheran Church offered space for this live mural painting where members of the neighborhood were encouraged to grab a brush and a free meal made with produce from one of the Lyndale community gardens.

Dresdner also looked to the community for input during the design process. Using an online survey as well as in-person conversations with neighbors, Dresdner gathered suggestions and feedback on what parts of Minneapolis people would like to see on the mural with relation to water.

“A lot of people said that the Mississippi River was one of their favorite parts about the city — and also the chain of lakes — so that’s all going to be in there,” Dresdner said. “Minneapolis has so much water that it was really kind of hard to narrow it down and I just sort of based it on what’s most important to people in their daily lives.”

Dresdner expanded the project further with the creation of zines designed to educate the community about stormwater runoff. These zines were made and distributed throughout south Minneapolis in Little Free Libraries.

Senior Communications Specialist for Hennepin County Environment and Energy and Minnesota Water Steward Christina Schmitt explained what the Art for Water program sets out to impart on their artist applicants and the work they will go on to create.

“The primary goal here is for the artist to use their project as an outreach tool to promote water quality,” Schmitt said. “It’s a different approach than, [for example], installing a rain garden. Art taps a different part of your brain, and people react with their hearts as well as their heads to art, realizing that water is precious and we all need to do our part to protect it.”

Dresdner encourages those who want to get involved to volunteer at the 34th Street and Nicollet Avenue garden to assist in their efforts to combat food insecurity and build community in the local neighborhood. He hopes the mural made by members of the community will be a reminder to appreciate and take stops to preserve local freshwater.

“I’m hoping to kind of start some conversations of how people change their practices to be more environmentally friendly,” Dresdner said. “Everything that happens upstream affects us, and everything we do affects everyone downstream so it’s like they’re all connected and I hope that that kind of message gets through.”