Artist collective re-envisions MSR mural

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Click to hear Creatives after Curfew in their own words. Video shot and edited by Nikhil Kumaran

The BIPOC muralist art collective Creatives after Curfew spent the past couple of weeks reimagining and retouching the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder’s signature mural facing 38th Street at 4th Avenue in South Minneapolis. They’ve provided not only a new color scheme, but also a more lifelike approach to the portraits of key CEOs and publishers.

Like the previous mural, the new mural chronicles the history of the paper from its founder Cecil E. Newman to his granddaughter and current CEO/Publisher Tracey Williams-Dillard, along with nods to the historic Black Press, high-profile contributors to the paper like photographer Gordon Parks, and stalwarts of paper like the late community editor Mel Reeves and sports columnist Kwame McDonald.

“We are trying to go back in, restore it, and bring more life to the mural,” said Grover Hogan, “especially for such an important cultural staple for the area and Black journalism in general.”

“There’s a lot of history on these walls,” said collective member Bayou Bay. “This paper has been here since 1934. 

“One thing that people may not know about the Spokesman-Recorder is that they keep an archive of all of their original papers. There’s just so much history in those recorded documents.”

 Most of the artists in the collective have been active members since its birth after the murder of George Floyd. “Our murals, at that time, were a response to his murder and police brutality,” said Leslie Barlow, one of the collective’s artists. 

“It was also a way for us to come together and make artwork to process everything that was going on, but also archive a moment and heal together.”

  • MSR mural
  • MSR Mural

“It seems like everything happened very fast during that time,” recalled Maiya Lea Hartman, a painter who’s been around since the group’s formation. “It was time for Black artists to recognize how much space was being taken up by non-Black artists and that it was our turn to share our voice and create a space of safety and joy.”

According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, a growing body of research shows that the arts have a positive impact on health and wellbeing. The University of Minnesota has a variety of programs and studies that explore and research the benefits of art to one’s physical and mental state.

Bay said that he loves art because it allows him to tap into his spirit and the expressive side of himself. “It’s playful and joyful, and ancestral,” Bay said. “It’s something that lets my heart and imagination run free. It’s such a great way to connect with people.”

Bay said that being in a collective has opened doors that its members may not have been able to open themselves. “As an individual artist, it’s great to go paint with folks that are BIPOC and speak up about issues that matter to us through art,” Bay said. 

“If I didn’t have a collective, I’d be doing it on my own, and it’s much better doing it with people. It’s also great to work together so that we can pool our resources and make this a lot more possible for each of us,” said Bay.

“Things like this collective actually help in regards to being involved within the community and knowing who’s around,” said Hogan. Hogan believes that another benefit of collectives is that they can provide an outlet for artists to share opportunities with each other.

The collective’s work on the MSR mural was completed this week.

To learn more about “Creatives After Curfew,” visit creativesaftercurfew.com.

Nikhil Kumaran is an editorial intern and contributor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.com.

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