Roosevelt High School, a public school located in the Standish-Ericsson neighborhood of South Minneapolis, has been quietly working on plans for a large scale outdoor sculpture for the school and the larger community. In collaboration with Forecast Public Art and artist Randy Walker, the “Connections Gallery” installation is a permanent structure with changeable components that Roosevelt, Minneapolis Public Schools and the community can enjoy, use and access to make connections through art and across curriculum.

In 2012, students at Roosevelt began exploring issues of  community art with artist residencies facilitated by Forecast Public Art, a non-profit organization that connects artists to communities through public art. As the discussions developed, students and faculty hatched the idea of having a permanent public art installation at Roosevelt. Artist Randy Walker, a fiber and mixed media artist who has created temporary and permanent installations throughout the United States, was selected by students and staff to be the lead artist on the project.

Walker began working in the spring of 2013 with a select group of Roosevelt students on designing and clarifying the purpose of their permanent public art sculpture. As they planned, they envisioned a structure and space that could be constantly reinvented, was accessible to all and that they could use to find connections in their learning. The final design shows 14 metal frames radiating outwards like wheel spokes from a large circular open air gallery.  Like a rice paper screen or stained glass window each metal frame is divided into a  smaller cells  of acrylic panels.  Within these panels students will be able to insert pictures, words- anything that they can create on paper.   Attached to each panel a strand of colored fiber will be woven through the top of the sculpture connecting to another panel elsewhere on the sculpture. These fibrous connections will be moved and rewoven to make different connections as the art and content in the frames is changed. The piece has a clean beauty as a work of sculpture on its own. But it is designed for people to use it as an evolving and ever changing gallery and record of art making and relationships among people and ideas — reflecting the community’s past, present, and future.

Throughout the spring of 2014, students and staff worked to create works of art for the first installation of the piece. Artist Keegan Xavi worked with students to create incredible collages for the first exhibit inside the Connections Gallery. The collage project was another way for them to see connections—this time between text and image; it pushed them to get outside of their normal “box” of meaning-making. Students created Dada poems where meaning is separated from word, and they “painted” with colors and images they tore from magazines. On May 28th the community gathered to celebrate the arts at Roosevelt – the Connections Gallery and a mural by artists Greta McLain, Claudio Valentino and Kate Rogers.

The project is almost complete. An unveiling will take place at the school on August 20th at the Roosevelt back to school event. The ribbon cutting is scheduled for 5:45pm. We look forward to seeing you there!

We invite you to connect with the school and Forecast to learn more about this piece and to come by frequently to observe its growth and watch it change!

 This Public Art in the Schools is made possible through gifts from our generous community – students, teachers, family, friends, and arts supporters. The Minnesota State Arts Board provided partial funding for the project, specific to Randy Walker’s time.

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Randy Walker is a fiscal year 2013 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.