MARILYN LINDSTROM - Artist Statement
"I believe art and culture can play a role in building the humane world we all envision."


Artist Statement for Franklin Library Public Art
Robert DesJarlait, Marilyn Lindstrom

We are a team of two artists who have collaborated on community/ public art projects in Minneapolis and greater Minnesota. Robert DesJarlait (Red Lake Ojibwe-Anishinabe), painter/muralist/Native historian and educator and Marilyn Lindstrom (European American) community muralist, mosaicist, visual artist, artist educator. The complementarily of our strengths and the contrast of our racial and gender identities deepens our work in finding unified functional, aesthetic, and symbolic solutions.

Robert and Marilyn have worked together for many years in the Phillips neighborhood creating outdoor murals with youth in the community. They have worked in a variety of multi- cultural settings working with symbols and images from many cultures. They received the Committee on Urban Environment Award (CUE) from the City of Minneapolis for their contributions to the urban landscape both have received the prestigious Leadership Initiatives in Neighborhood (LIN) grant from the St. Paul Companies for their work in communities. Marilyn Lindstrom has been researching and documenting symbols from ancient multi-cultural sources for many years. She has researched symbols from Asian, African, Native American, Meso American and European cultures. Her research for the LIN grant focused on ancient Northern European symbols and legends, with the purpose in part to find a meaningful place at the current multi- cultural circle for the European cultures.

Robert DesJarlait is Ojibwe-Anishinabe from Red Lake, Minnesota. He is a visual artist, historian, educator and traditional dancer. DesJarlait has created numerous paintings reflecting the culture of the Ojibwe and has been a cultural mentor and advisor on numerous public art projects. His father, Patrick DesJarlait is a nationally known Ojibwe artist, paving a path for Native artist’s work in the 1950s. Robert has published “Traditional Art of the Ojibwe” on Ojibwe symbols and pictographs and has done extensive research and documentation of Anishinabe traditions and symbols.

In Marilyn Lindstrom’s “Hand to Heart”, mosaic series, mosaic art is placed over the doorway of the Jeremiah Program’s new building and on the gateway pillars at the entrance of the campus. The Jeremiah Program is a residential, transitional facility for young mothers and their children-"changing women's lives for their children's future." Lindstrom and Kouanchao worked with architectural design firm, Collaborative Design Group, the City of Minneapolis Public Art program, and the residents to integrate public artworks into a building expansion project. Lindstrom intends that the art “reflect the dreams, commitment and nurturing environment necessary to make the aspirations of the residents a reality--a daily reminder that life can be beautiful and connected to the larger world.

Between us, we have many years creating public art for and about diverse communities. Inspiration for our work comes from the people who live and work where the art will be placed and from the historic and architectural dimension of the environment. In this case, the multicultural nature of the community will inform the content of the art. The mosaic closest to the American Indian section is inspired from the Native cultures and the mosaic nearest the World Language section originates from a global theme. The Italian Renaissance architectural style will inform the medium of mosaic as well as the mosaic form is common to many world cultures.

We believe the arts have a transformative and healing dimension. Many of us are losing our understanding of both the traditional symbols of our cultural heritage as well as the significance of current artistic efforts. For immigrant or bicultural people, especially youth shaping their identity and elders grieving the dilution of their cultural heritage there is healing in art.

Universally, murals and mosaics provide a metaphor for the puzzle-like multiplicity of our experience and lives as pieces of the larger societal fabric. We believe that public art can play a role in building a humane environment in which we live. We find our contemporary lives lacking in symbolic landmarks, points of contact between the personal, cultural, and communal sense of place. We have seen public art provide a link between the individual, the social, the historical and the imaginary. In this case, the mosaics over the fireplaces in the American Indian section and the World Languages section of the library of the library can be a source of inspiration, a gathering place, and a crossroads of cultures, connections, and ideas- historically and culturally.

Artist Statement for Family Housing Fund "Home Sweet Home Again: An Exhibition of Art and Poetry," 2005:

When placing the concept of home within the notion of the American Dream, I found myself facing contradictions, expectations and finally new definitions. “The American Dream?” photo mosaic grew out of examining these hopes, myths and new possibilities around the American Dream home, especially for new immigrants and those living on the edge of society.

The project took place at Skyline Towers, a high-rise tower of 1300 income residents over looking Freeway 94 between Snelling Ave and Lexington Ave in the Twin Cities. This was the site for a community mural project I coordinated this past summer around the theme of welcome and home. Community people from Skyline Towers became designers, painters and cultural researchers. We created a beautiful mural inside the resident’s entrance around the theme of “How do we feel welcome?”

In “The American Dream?” Skyline residents again became artist participants, shooting photographs of their community at Skyline Towers, creating over 400 images for our photo mosaic. When the idea for this piece first arose, I envisioned a mosaic image of a classic middle class house, made up of people who do NOT live in a traditional American Dream house. This idea, its seemed would be a powerful statement about privilege and lack of access. I believe it is. However, through the course of my becoming a part of the community at Skyline, I have come to realize that the Skyline Tower community of people truly does make a Home adding another non-traditional layer to its definition of The American Dream home.
Thank-you to ALL the residents at Skyline Towers, for your stories, conversation, ideas, talents, time, work, trust, patience, and participation in both the mural and the mosaic.
Most of all, thank-you for sharing your home.

Skyline Photographers include:
"G" Abdirizack Abdi
"MB" Mohamed Ali
"Lee" Liban Adam
Mohamed Abdi
Abdul Asdi
Ahmed Mo
Bahnan Abdi
Nuyerma Bararo
Abdirizak Adod
Deq Hurre
Marguis Montantes
Tiawanna Garret
Samell Thomas

I am grateful to the Family Housing Fund for this opportunity. Muchas Gracias to Malichansouk Kouanchao for her technical assistance. Thank-you to Tobechi Tobechukwu for the photograph of the house. Many thanks to CommonBond Communities,Theresa Sweetland and Intermedia Arts, and SASE-The Write Place for making the mural possible. Thank-you to Usry Alleyne for his partnership in the writing and mural residency at Skyline Towers. Thanks to Christina Erickson, VISTA community organizer. Thank-you Pro-x Photo Uptown for donating prints of all the photos for the residents at Skyline. And most of all, thank-you to all the participants.

Minnesota State Arts Board Roster of Artist in Education and COMPAS Writers and Artists in the Schools Artists Statement:

I create murals with students about themselves, their cultural heritage, their visions and their community. I believe public art is an important part of our educational, urban and rural landscapes. Mural art is a collective process, which through the process of its creation is able to build community and strengthen relationships.

For thirty years, I have created murals and mosaics with schools and communities through out Minnesota and Wisconsin and as global as Uganda, Africa and Managua, Nicaragua. The work has received committee on Urban Environment (CUE) Awards from the City of Minneapolis. I have recently been awarded the Leadership Initiatives in Neighborhoods (LIN) fellowship from The St. Paul Companies. I founded and directed an organization, Neighborhood Safe Art, youth-created public art, which created a decade worth of outdoor murals with inner city teenagers. I have created murals with elementary, middle, and high school students, intergenerational community groups, rural communities, youth at risk, art students, private school students, elders, homeless men, development workers in Africa, children in Nicaragua and countless others. This has been my life work.

In my residencies, students are the designers and painters/and or mosaicists. They develop a theme, create drawings, and paint or “mosaic”(tessellate) to the theme. Through this process, the students become empowered with their own creativity, knowledge about themselves, each other, and their communities. The work of art we create together far exceeds anything any one of us could have created alone, and often, exceeds all expectations in its’ aesthetics and presence. Finally, we dedicate the mural with a celebration at its completion where the creators are honored and the mural is given as a gift to the school community.

site designed by: Mali Kouanchao