The horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May galvanized protesters and understandable outrage in response to the systemic racism that exists in my home state and across the America. Shortly after, I was contacted by COMPAS a local arts organization that I support. The mission of COMPAS is to deliver creative experiences that unleash the potential within all of us. The organization’s vision strives to give all Minnesotans access to creative opportunities that enrich lives and communities.
During the unrest that followed Mr. Floyd’s death, a local mural (the Marydale Park mural in North St. Paul) was severely damaged with graffiti. Even without being defaced, the art had faded with dirt and exhaust build-up since its creation in 2016. I was asked to provide financial assistance to clean and refurbish the mural. I was more than happy to help. COMPAS Arts Program Director, Julie Strand, along with a resident artist with the nonprofit headed up the project, which was recently completed. COMPAS Executive Director Dawne Brown White described the efforts:
We were able to provide employment to the six youth over the three days who because of COVID-19 have not been able to find jobs. It was also a great bonding experience for youth being part of a community clean-up. It demonstrates to the community the positive power of youth. For the youth, such involvement proves how much care goes into maintaining and improving communities, and how important that is.”
The process occurred over three very hot, humid Minnesota summer days in August. Food was donated for the youth and the City of St. Paul donated all the water needed to clean the mural. White noted the area “is just thrilled and many folks came by from the immediate community and talked with the youth.” This neighborhood doesn’t always get noticed, and I was excited to be able to help repair what is a beautiful mural. The end result was WIN-WIN for everyone and the work validates the power in youth engagement and community and coming together to make a difference. Before and after pictures are below. The vibrant refurbished mural attests to the youth’s hard work.
The clean-up effort wasn’t only noticed by the neighborhood, but the Chair of the St. Paul City Council and the community association, who praised the project. The restoration of the Marydale Park mural plays a transformative role. When citizens are more emotionally attached to where they live, the community is more likely to thrive.