Artist Jimmy Longoria first developed a relationship with the Hale-Page-Diamond Lake Community Association several years ago, when he worked with it on a mural at the Aqualand Aquarium Center.
This summer, he worked with the organization to paint a pair of graffitied cargo containers at Todd Park.
Longoria and his wife, Connie, led volunteers in three days of painting the two containers, which the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board uses to store sports equipment. The group transformed them into bright works of art, despite scorching temperatures during eight-hour days of painting.
“The volunteers should be commended,” Longoria said. “They were real heroic.”
Longoria is a Chicano artist who was born in south Texas and studied art in Chicago and California. He says his art is recognized for its color, contrast and multiple layers created with hundreds of brush strokes.
About eight years ago, Longoria and Connie founded a nonprofit organization called Mentoring Peace Through Art, with the goal of preventing gang activity and providing teenagers with employment. The organization worked with teenagers and schools to create larger murals in Longoria’s style that would cover graffitied walls.
Teenagers in the program worked eight-hour days during the summer, Longoria said. Each had a different role, from manager to painter.
Longoria stopped administering the program a few years ago but has continued with individual projects. That included the Todd Park project.
Sarah Sillers, chair of the Hale-Page-Diamond Lake Community Association board, said the project had been many years in the making, noting that the Diamond Lake Community Busi- ness Alliance had wanted to do it for years.
Sillers said the community association put out a call for volunteers to help with the project and that the volunteers worked 10 a.m.–6 p.m. over the three days. She said Longoria painted outlines for people to follow but that he was open to people painting their own ideas, too.
Some of the volunteers were out there for all three days, Sillers said, estimating that roughly 25 people worked on the project. One family intended to stay for one shift but ended up staying the entire day, she said.
Sillers said feedback on the project has been positive, noting that businesses near 56th & Chicago are pleased. She said the neighborhood association paid for the project but that the business alliance was helpful in spreading word about the project and donating food.
Longoria said he wants to encourage the neighborhood to look at other projects, noting that volunteers can do a lot to keep a commu- nity vibrant. He said Valspar donated the paint for the Todd Park project and added that he and Connie have been invited by the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to do a project down there.
Visit jimmylongoria.com to learn more about his work.