Artists working to inspire social change

Gustavo Lira Garcia and Rodrigo Onate Roco with their new collaborative piece on sale during Art-A-Whirl. Photo by Ryan Stopera

Ever since he was a boy attending art classes down the street from his home in Oaxaca, Mexico, Gustavo Lira Garcia knew he wanted to be an artist and an educator. Today he brings out the creative inspiration of youth to collaboratively paint murals in the city. Gustavo is currently working on a mural with students at South High School, and I stopped by his studio to talk about his creative process.

“The students I’m working with at South High School are Black, Somali, Latino, and Caucasian. I wanted to make sure everyone’s voice was included, to know what they feel, and what they want to see different in the world,” Gustavo shared.

The finished work should be complete soon and incorporates an intersection of images addressing “police brutality, the hypocrisy of the American dream and destruction of the environment.”

Minneapolis has so many talented artists and platforms to view their work.  Art-A-Whirl is a great opportunity to check out what artists have been working on right in their studios today through Sunday.

Gustavo shares a studio in the Solar Arts Building with Rodrigo Onate Roco and they recently collaborated on a piece. Rodrigo said thanks to a client who visited the studio they worked on a painting together for the first time. “He asked if we could make something combining our realistic and abstract styles,” he said. See more of their work in studio 209 of the Solar Arts Building.

Public Functionary is another must-see gallery featuring the exhibition “Shape Shifter” by Mark Shoening and a concert on Friday night.

Tricia Khutoresky has a long history of supporting creatives, artists and musicians in the Twin Cities and encouraging the growth of our creative culture. She is one of three co-directors at Public Functionary and besides developing the vision for the space, she curates exhibitions and build relationships through collaboration.

“Public Functionary is an exhibition and social space in NE Minneapolis. It’s a nonprofit, we consider ourselves an alternative art space. I think it’s different because of how inclusive and flexible the space strives to be. We don’t get caught up on labels, art world expectations or catering to a specific audience. Instead we’re re-thinking the relevancy of art space despite the changing reality of how the public engages with art, and cultivating a platform for a modern, evolving artist community,” Tricia shared about what makes the space unique from other galleries.

Community organizer and MC Jake Virden of Off 10 is releasing the EP “The Longest Bridge” with producer, Mamadu, also known as musician, educator and all around good human Toki Wright.

“The longest bridge is a reference to the Plymouth, Broadway and Lowry Avenue bridges connecting Northeast and North Minneapolis. We released the EP on the weekend of Art-A-Whirl to highlight the history of this community and to acknowledge what’s happened here. We are a decade out of violently enforced racial segregation. That segregation serves a political purpose for the ruling class who want to create hostility between the working class community in Northeast Minneapolis and African American Community in North Minneapolis,” Jake said about the intention of the EP’s release.

When Toki spent time in Sierra Leone he was given the name Mamadu, which translates to the prophet Mohamed. He said, “I took that moniker on as a name to create music that was different from what is expected from me. I’ve always been interested in working with talented people. I often see talented people who don’t get credit they deserve. I like working with people who are generally passionate about their work. I called GP Jacob a few times and he came through the studio. I was always impressed with him as a writer, a thinker, being prompt, being able to develop creative ideas and take criticism well.” With Toki growing up in North and Jake growing up in Northeast the collaboration is perfect for connecting these communities.

The Longest Bridge release party will wake you up with powerful lyrics from Jake and Spencer Virden, and make you dance with production from Mamadu and DJ Keezy spinning all night. The show at Public Functionary is from 7-10 p.m. Friday and kicks off with the pro black group Chem Klan talking about building wealth and celebrating North Minneapolis.

After the show at Public Functionary stop by Ginger Hop for food, drinks and a new dance night The Vibe by DJ Michel. Be and DJ Lady Em starting at 10pm Friday night.

With all the construction and cultural shifts happening in Minneapolis it can be challenging to find space that feels fun, comfortable and connected to your community. Uptown no longer has the artsy, hip, slightly eccentric culture it once did, and neighborhoods continue to change every day. The talented DJ’s told me about their collaboration and the need for safe dance spaces in the city.

“This event will be an easy going time for people who don’t always fit into the prescribed crowds that many events usually cater to. Myself being a gender non-conforming black weirdo, it is important for me to create space for other people in my community who don’t fit into boxes. I create intentional space for people who can groove to many different kinds of music, and anything that will make you want to dance. This event will also be an organic opportunity for me to build a creative relationship with fellow DJ Lady Em, as we will be co-creating a unique musical vibe,” DJ Michel.Be said.

DJ Lady Em added: “Dance floors are one of the few spaces where I’ve noticed people being able to come together, be alive and express themselves without constraint — if only for a couple of moments. However, clubs are also places where I as a woman (and many other people, whether they identify as woman or not) have been consistently harassed and made to feel uncomfortable. With this dance night, I hope to play music that allows people to feel alive and positive, despite whatever pain they may be dealing with. I look forward to collaborating with DJ Michel. Be on this event and growing as a DJ. Be ready for all the jams — the ignorant, the classic, the sensual, the old skool and the stuff you haven’t heard but know you definitely like!”

This will be a perfect end to a perfect spring night in Minneapolis. Take the time to meet artists you may not have heard of before, and learn about how they use art as a tool to build community and create social change. With art we can bridge the gap between us and build connection to each other.