SAINT PAUL, MN - Rondo Community Library, in partnership with Springboard for the Arts, recently announced four finalists vying for the opportunity to create and install a permanent public artwork on the library’s façade on the corner of Dale Street and University Avenue. The winning artist or team will be selected in January and receive $40,000 to cover all expenses related to artwork creation and installation. Installation will begin fall of 2019.
All the finalists have a deep connection to the Rondo neighborhood.
Mica Lee Anders
Mica Lee Anders has lived, worked, and volunteered in the heart of the Rondo community for more than six years. A multi-media artist, she currently works primarily in textiles, digital graphics, and mosaics. “Many of the public art pieces I’ve created have engaged community both through the art-making process and in the final installation,” she said. “When I work with the community to co-create mosaic and textile installations, I involve them in a variety of art-making opportunities from help with cutting and gluing to solving small design challenges that come up along the way.”
Gita Ghei, Melvin Giles, and Aki Shibata
Gita Ghei has recently completed public art commissions for Frogtown Farm. She also is a volunteer with Frogtown Green’s Tree Frogs pop-up park program. Melvin Giles grew up in Rondo where he still resides. He is a well-known peace and social-justice activist within the community. Aki Shibata has lived in Frogtown with her husband and son for many years. The artists described their vision as such: “We see the library as a wellspring of sharing thoughts and words. We see potential for highlighting the library as a welcoming gateway and gathering community space. Concepts that stand out for us, include: light, safety, color, multi-cultural, languages, literacy, mixed media, earth.”
Gustavo Lira and Shannon McEvoy
Gustavo Lira, originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, has lived in Minnesota for 22 years and frequented Rondo Community Library with his daughters when they were growing up. His artistic partner, Shannon McEvoy, has a long family history in Saint Paul in close proximity to the library. The artists and muralists described their philosophy: “We are passionate about empowering local communities by transforming public spaces into celebrations of their history, identities, and dreams of the future.”
Kao Lee Thao
Kao Lee Thao has created many public art pieces along University Avenue, frequently drawing on her childhood memories of the Rondo and Frogtown neighborhoods. Thao works with many mediums to create her art, including wood, metal, canvas, paint, and digital forms. “The library was my escape from the harsh reality of living in poverty and being bullied in school,” she stated. “The books that surrounded me were adventures. I could experience people’s stories and take journeys of imagination.”
Rondo Community Library is Saint Paul’s busiest branch and serves as a community gathering place. It is a safe haven for students, a resource for jobseekers, a training center for literacy, and a home to the world’s greatest literature. Inside the library, ideas are bubbling, knowledge is building, empathy is cultivated, and imaginations are transported to faraway worlds. Outside, however, the library is a cold stone façade that belies the energy, creativity, and hope within.
In an effort to align the building’s exterior with its interior, The Friends of Saint Paul Public Library secured funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as a winner of its 2017 Saint Paul Knight Arts Challenge, and the National Endowment for the Arts to commission a neighborhood artist to create a work representative of the library and its surrounding community. The library partnered with Springboard for the Arts to design and manage the artist selection, design, and implementation process.
Full bios of the artists and work samples are available upon request. For more information about this project, visit artatrondo.com.
About Saint Paul Public Library
Saint Paul Public Library connects people in Saint Paul with the imperative and joy of learning through a lifetime. Saint Paul residents can enjoy free access to technology, books, movies, music, classes, and more. We are at 13 neighborhood libraries, the Bookmobile, and online at sppl.org.