Artists Melodee Strong, left, and Timi Bliss, right, with their shelter artwork.
When Timi Bliss wrote and illustrated her books “In Search of the Gingerbread Man” and “In Search of the Sandman,” she put her granddaughter Charlie at the center of the stories.
Now, Charlie and a reimagined version of their dog Sensei are at the center of an image that will be found inside dozens of buses and waiting shelters throughout the region. The image also features colorful rays of sunshine and the words, “Community,” and “Resilience.”
“I want people to look, smile and engage with it, and also to walk away with a sense of hope and happiness,” Bliss said.
Other artists whose works will be similarly featured over the coming months are also eager to inspire. In all, five artists whose works are a reflection on civil unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic will have their work displayed across the transit network this winter.
Christopher E. Harrison’s piece includes the phrase, “Come Together Right Now,” surrounded by doves and outstretched hands, and is part of a larger mural he created in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing.
“It’s very sad that change can be violent but out of this we can come together, reconcile with those issues and become a better community, a better society,” Harrison said. “My art is my advocacy so finding ways to get that message out is an important part of my practice. For me, this is a time to let people know art can speak to us and speak for us.”
Melodee Strong, who has created murals in schools and other public setting across the Twin Cities, said this is also an important moment to spotlight artists of color. Strong started making art while growing up in rural Minnesota, where she was one of a few Latinos.
The painting she created for this project features images of essential workers – a nurse, a firefighter, a train operator, a delivery person, a grocery clerk and a childcare provider – who have been on the pandemic’s frontlines.
The workers are surrounded by a quilted blanket and a pair of hands burning sage, a practice known as smudging that is meant to cleanse negative energy. Smudging is practiced by the Dakota and Ojibwe people who first lived in what is now Minnesota.
“I always think it’s meaningful that we’re (artists of color) being sought out to represent the community,” Strong said. “It’s about time people recognize we’re here, we’re talented and we have something to say.”
Look for these pieces on buses and at shelters