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Aaron Johnson-Ortiz: Workers United in Struggle mural

2017 Forecast Early Career Project Grantee Aaron Johnson-Ortiz recently completed his project– a stunning community-driven mural in Minneapolis, MN. The Forecast Early Career Project grant opportunity gives artists early in their public art career the opportunity to experiment and hone their practices, as well as cultivate careers in the field.

Artist and community organizer Johnson-Ortiz engaged low-wage worker activists, neighbors and allies to develop, design, and create the site-specific mural at the new Minneapolis workers’ center building, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), or Center for Workers United in Struggle.

Located in Minneapolis at 3715 S. Chicago Avenue near a studio, gallery, two arts centers and a theater, the mural enlivens an already growing art and small-business corridor in the midst of several racial and economically diverse neighborhoods.

Says Johnson-Ortiz about the project:

“Most of all, I appreciate Forecast’s willingness to give me an opportunity as an emerging artist to take on a new—and very challenging—project, in particular because mural painting was entirely new to me. This is also true of the workers’ center CTUL … they were incredibly supportive, helpful, and encouraging in the process. Additionally, community members, neighbors, and CTUL member activists were also supportive throughout the year. I’m not used to working outdoors, and in this project I had countless strangers come by and comment on the mural, and many of them even signed up right then and there to become volunteer painters. Finally, more established muralists in the Twin Cities, in particular Olivia Levins Holden and Nell Pierce, were very supportive as well. … Overall, it was that sense of a loving community that I most appreciated in my experience with this project.”

 

One CTUL staff member was so inspired by Johnson-Ortiz’s, that he wrote a poem about him:

In the time of monsters, dreams are born
For Aaron

He paints.
He paints images that are hidden deep within our hearts,
the spirits within us, which have been put to sleep.
In order to see them one must feel.
In order to wake them the painter stays patient.
Rising with the sun
his brush speaks
and it continues to speak as darkness falls giving eyesight to the stars.
The paints relays images of emotion we have always been curious about
He takes the visuals laid deep within our hearts and lets us see ourselves
In pure form.
no filter
the painter awakens dreams.
Once awakened the dream belongs to no one but the future.
He paints.
He paints the future that the healers have always felt but the monsters have tried to silence.
The painter is but a healer of the future passed down by the elders
birthing new worlds.