As the sunlight shimmers through the layers of reds, oranges and greens it casts a dancing stained-glass pattern onto the carpeting of the Maple Grove library.
The vibrant translucent shapes are layered together to create subtle shifts in color, and as a collective, create a castle on the library windows—a temporary “home” fit for the dragon sculpture that graces the library year-round.
The castle, made of cling art material, was only temporary—lasting a mere seven weeks. But, the community involvement, the dozens of hands that joined together to create artwork at the library and other businesses scattered throughout Maple Grove, still remains.
“By putting a project of this scope in Maple Grove we’re getting noticed, the Shoppes (at Arbor Lakes) are getting noticed,” says Lorrie Link, executive director of the Maple Grove Arts Center. ”We’re embracing a common goal of being a unique destination for residents.”
The public art installation “Interactive Light: Seeing Maple Grove Thru Windows” involved community members of all ages. Children, teens, adults and senior living residents all joined in the project, creating abstract and story-telling scenes on the windows of 9 area businesses. The project was part of a larger “placemaking” concept made possible in part by a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
Link says the installation exposed community members to art who may not have otherwise attended a gallery opening or an art class. “It gave people a chance to slow down and sit in a space and perhaps visit businesses they’ve never ventured to, just to see another installation,” she says.
“Art is a unifying element. It brings beauty and enriches our community.” Link says. In her mind, it’s the one thing the city has been missing. “Good community art really brings people together,” Link says. “That’s placemaking and that gives people a reason to go and be in an area."
Local artist Christina Hankins worked collaboratively with originating artist Cheryl Walker to create the library scene. Walker is a California-based artist who works with transparency and light and has created numerous public installations. She created the concept for the overall project and Hankins led the effort to involve the public in creating the artscapes throughout the city.
For Walker, the concept of working with members of the community to actually place the pieces is an important one. She says most people haven’t had art since high school and those who view art aren’t allowed to touch it.
“[This collaborative style] is so freeing, it opens people’s minds and new ideas emerge,” she says. “It’s about the interaction, it’s about the dialogue, it’s about the opening up and letting go that making art allows for.”
“Art is an everyday part of life and it’s all around us. It’s about creating something that’s equal opportunity for everyone, it’s not elitist, it’s not exclusive but exposes people to more possibilities,” Walker says.
For Hankins, who describes her own work as whimsical story-telling, the project was about working hands-on with volunteers from the community. She cut the actual shapes, putting her own twist on the project by focusing on storytelling specific to each location.
For Color Me Mine, the paint-your-own ceramics shop, she created vessels, cups and vases. For Juniper, the clothing boutique, she took inspiration from the shop’s décor and created florals and birds. For the government center she reflected the flora and fauna of Maple Grove parks.
From there, she provided some basic instruction and let members of the public use their own imaginations to create the compositions. In each location the number of participants grew, smaller businesses had two or three people working on a window and larger places like the library, garnered 20 pairs of hands—artist and non-artist alike.
“I think it can be daunting for people, they think they have to be artistic to do something,” Hankins said. “You can’t go wrong. You layer the shapes and whatever you do looks beautiful.”Hankins worked with the youngest members of the community as she taught at a Camp Arbor workshop in Arbor Park, teaching kids how to create stained-glass effects using tissue paper.
At the Maple Grove Arts Center Hankins worked with newly graduated Maple Grove Senior High School student Mackenzie Catton, who leads The Grove Student Artists group at the center. Catton gathered about 10 students from area high schools and then took the lead as they created their own concept for the art center windows—a concept all their own. They worked as a team on the overall theme, cultures around the world, and then paired off to create each window display.
“Working with other students and problem-solving and combining ideas, the cooperation that goes on with this project is pretty key,” Catton said.
In addition, Catton organized high school students to create the window project at Arbor Lakes Senior Living Center. There, students worked side by side with residents, across generations to create one concept.
While many people were involved in the concept and creation of the Interactive Light project, the true joy was the beauty, color and whimsy it brought to our city if only for a short seven weeks.
The Grove Student Artists
The Grove Student Artists group meets most Friday nights at the Maple Grove Arts Center and is open to teens in the surrounding area.
The group focuses on open studios from 7-10 p.m. but also offers time for in-group critiques. The members often attend exhibit opens at the center and volunteer in the arts community, allowing them time to work with established local artists.
“It’s a place to feel comfortable and have time to work on art,” says Mackenzie Catton, group leader. “It’s a place to be around other artists, it creates a community.”
The Arts Center
The Maple Grove Arts Center offers opportunities for artists of all experience levels, ages and mediums. The center hosts gallery openings, offers art history presentations and holds classes for kids and adults year-round—some appropriate for beginners and others for experienced artists. But, its offerings aren’t limited to the visual arts—the center hosts theater experiences for kids with disabilities, offers studio space to artists and a place for writers groups to gather.
Classes begin for students as young as age 5 and, depending on age, include everything from painting and print making to felting and pottery.
For a complete listing of classes, camps, events, studio times and gallery openings visit maplegroveartscenter.org.