Top row: Holly Miskitoos Henning Garcia, Aaron Johnson Ortiz, Katrina Knutson, Rock “Cyfi” Martinez. Middle: Marlena Myles, Peyton Scott Russell. Bottom: Alex Smith, Kao Lee Thao, Thomasina Topbear, Missy Whiteman.
Ten artists will leave their mark on the growing collection of community murals in Minnesota’s Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ) during the return of the Chroma Zone Mural and Art Festival for 2021. Chroma Zone is Minnesota’s largest art and mural festival, produced and located within the CEZ, a city-recognized district of Saint Paul and non-profit dedicated to attracting and supporting creative people and businesses. Begun in 2019, the annual mural festival celebrates artistry and adds to the neighborhood’s long-term beauty, economic viability, safety, and walkability while supporting artists and entrepreneurs, and sparking creative economic activity. Forecast managed the festival artist selection and we are excited to join the Creative Enterprise Zone in announcing the selected artists!
Forecast’s Role + Emphasizing Racial and Gender Equity to Disrupt the Mural Festival Status Quo
As a facilitator of the artist selection, Forecast provided the CEZ with a list of pre-qualified artists. In line with our values, we thoughtfully recommended artists with racial and gender equity in mind.
Theresa Sweetland, Forecast Executive Director, explains: “As a national organization, Forecast is concerned that many mural festivals continue to lag behind in ensuring full representation of BIPOC, womxn and non-binary artists and see a part of our role with Chroma Zone to disrupt the mural festival status quo. We thoughtfully select and recommend artists for walls, events, and educational opportunities through the lens of racial and gender equity. This year we are proud to have half of our artists identify as Indigenous as we strive to build deeper relationships with and support indigenous artists through the festival.”
Many of the selected artists have previously received support from Forecast through grants and other programming, through our ongoing work supporting public artists with funding, training and opportunities to create partnerships and advance their public art careers.
The final selection includes ten artists. All are Minnesota-based; the majority of the artists are womxn or non-binary artists, and half identify as Indigenous artists.
Holly Miskitoos Henning Garcia (Marten Falls Anishinaabe First Nation | Constance Lake Oji-Cree First Nation) is an active visual artist and muralist who is a Lead Organizer for a BIPOC artist collective called City Mischief Murals in the Twin Cities area. She uses art to elevate community voice, healing, and advance change. She has been part of several community arts-based events and mural projects throughout the United States, Canada, Africa, and Mexico. She uses acrylic paint, aerosol paint, traditional Native American art forms, and dance as a personal and political tool to address, explore and portray contemporary indigenous struggle.
Holly is a Forecast 2021 Mid-Career Project Grantee
@miskitoos | @citymischief
Aaron Johnson-Ortiz is a Mexican-American/Chicanx artist based in St. Paul. His art focuses on labor rights, immigrant rights, and the transnational Latino experience. Originally from Minnesota, Aaron grew up in Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico. His “Workers United In Struggle” mural was named “Best Mural” by City Pages in 2018. For his day job, Aaron is the Director of Arts & Cultural Engagement at CLUES (Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio), where he curates a Latino-focused art gallery and directs programming, including a folk arts program, a muralism apprenticeship, and community workshops. In his free time, he enjoys backpacking along Minnesota’s North Shore with his dog Aura.
Aaron was a Forecast 2017 Emerging Artist Project Grantee
Born and raised in Minneapolis Katrina Knutson is a painter, printmaker, illustrator, and active community muralist. She is inspired by urban landscapes, resistance, and resilience. She works as a teaching artist in many communities across the state of Minnesota.
Katrina was a Forecast 2020 Mid-Career Project Grantee
Rock “Cyfi” Martinez is a visual artist and muralist born in Tucson, Arizona. He now resides in Minneapolis. As a self-taught artist, he developed his craft by learning alongside other graffiti writers in his community. This grassroots education and the trials that come from working in a street-culture medium outside of the traditional scope of fine art influenced his understanding of public places and spaces — namely who they are for, and by extension, who was not welcome. Throughout his body of work he explores this tension and seeks to amplify the voices and narratives of those who have been disenfranchised and marginalized throughout history. He draws on his Mexican American and Indigenous heritage to comment on the social, cultural, and natural history of site-specific surfaces, often using allegory, abstraction, and pop art devices to layer meaning.
@cyfione | cyfiart.com
Marlena Myles is a self-taught Native American (Spirit Lake Dakota / Mohegan / Muscogee) artist located in St. Paul. Her art brings modernity to indigenous history, languages and oral traditions. Growing up on her traditional Dakota homelands here in the Twin Cities, she enjoys using her artwork to teach Minnesotans of all backgrounds the indigenous history of this place we call home.
Marlena designed an original poster for Forecast’s Messages of Hope mini-grants fundraising, and the graphic for our Innovation Toolkit on creative alternatives to in-person arts-based activities.
@mylesdesigns | linktr.ee/mylesdesigns
Minneapolis-based artist Peyton Scott Russell has a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and for over three decades has been a professional artist and arts instructor. The 1984 the film Style Wars introduced Peyton to graffiti art and had a profound effect on him. From that point on, he devoted his time and energy to graffiti art. Peyton has also taught and directed classical visual fine arts with nontraditional art programs and encourages students to be professional artists by focusing on portfolio development, artistic interpretation, and exhibition. Today, through assistance from a Bush Foundation Fellowship (2012–2014), Peyton is focused on his new arts program, SPRAYFINGER®. He is dedicated to teaching, studying, and practicing Graffiti: The Art of Creative Lettering™. His mission is to increase awareness of graffiti as a teachable art form by working with schools, teachers, and artists on curriculum design, outlines, and lesson plans to deepen the understanding of a long-misunderstood art form.
@houseofdaskarone | houseofdaskarone.com
Alex Smith is an artist, designer and educator based in Saint Paul. His work ranges from murals to T-shirts, and is deeply rooted in aerosol art. Alex’s work centers around graffiti-inspired abstraction and layered collage. He currently leads the Textile and Screen printing program at Juxtaposition Arts and teaches aerosol art classes to young people during the summer. Alex’s mural work focuses on futuristic placemaking and adding new layers and representation to the visual landscape of the Twin Cities.
Kao Lee Thao is the visual artist and 3D animator behind Inner Swirl, where she taps into the subconscious and releases hidden inner swirls in paintings. All of her inspirations come from her dreams and personal experiences. With every stroke she leaves behind a window into her soul, hoping to spark inspiration in others to transport viewers to a world of fantasy, reminding us not to forget what imagination can accomplish in life.
Kao Lee Thao was a Forecast 2020 Early-Career Project Grantee
@kaoleethao | innerswirl.com
Thomasina Topbear is a self-taught Santee Dakota and Oglala Lakota muralist. She has been a member of the international all detail crew Few & Far Women since 2015. She helped found City Mischief Murals, an all-BIPOC art collective in the Twin Cities. Thomasina’s inspirations come from her Indigenous culture and graffiti background. She uses these influences to express her feelings on community, social justice, culture, feminism, and togetherness.
Thomasina is a Forecast 2021 Mid-Career Project Grantee
@tomierae | fewandfarwomen.com/tomie
Missy Whiteman (Northern Arapaho and Kickapoo) is an Emmy–nominated writer, director, producer and multimedia artist. Whiteman understands her work to be a voice for her ancestors, their stories and ancestral wisdom. Her late father, Ernest Whiteman, influenced her work, with the gift of artistic vision and practice of art as ceremony.
While based in part in Indigenous traditional practices and perspectives, her work also addresses themes of historical genocide, loss of culture, and land in relation to colonization. Whiteman questions the connection of life, death, spirit world and the rebirth process of revitalizing DNA memory, spirit healing and redefinition of cultural identity.
Many of Missy’s films have screened in international, national, and local venues, such as the Walker Art Center, National Geographic All Roads Festival, and in Bilbao, Spain. Whiteman is a current recipient of the McKnight Fellowship for Media Arts, Hennepin Theatre Trust/All My Relations Digital Public Arts fellowship, 2020 Forecast Public Art Mid-Career fellow, and is an alum of the Sundance Native Lab Fellowship and Jerome Fellowship for her short film project The Coyote Way: Going Back Home. Her current project, The Coyote Way X: Expanded Cinema is a multidimensional cinematic experience of The Coyote Way: Going Back Home short film intertwined with performance, live score, video mapping, and 360/VR.
Missy was a Forecast 2020 Mid-Career Project Grantee
@missy_whiteman | @going_back_home_
Two artist talks will be held later this summer as part of the festival. Watch for more information to come.