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Graffiti movement reaches Red Wing: Mural project is open to all ages

Graffiti methods including aerosol are used by Sprayfinger to create murals. He will work with locals to paint one in June 2019 on Red Wing's Old West Main Street. Submitted photo1 / 2
The Artisan Collective offered its east wall as the “canvas” for a public art mural that will be created as part of a Red Wing community workshop in June. Submitted photo2 / 2

Talk about graffiti and many people think about weird drawings on passing train cars or vandalism on city property.

But it can be so much more.

Red Wing Arts and a graffiti artist known as Sprayfinger are about to launch a community project that will lead to the painting of a building-size mural by local residents. The public artwork will be on the east wall of the Artist Collective, 1523 Old W. Main St.

Adults and young people age 14 and older can sign up now for the two-week Community Mural Workshop. There is a cost, but scholarships are available.

Peyton Scott Russell, a.k.a. SprayfingerSprayfinger, a.k.a. Peyton Scott Russell, has spent the past several months in Red Wing giving students and residents a broader view of what graffiti can be.

He worked with Tower View Alternative School students and informed a community dialogue that addressed the sensitive aspect of graffiti, including when and where it is vandalism versus art.

From June 10-14 and June 24-28 he will be back to work with a group of up to 15 people. Sessions will run 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The first week they'll meet at ArtReach downtown to learn about "graffiti as a fine art form, as a movement, a source of communication and an enhancement to our community," according to Emily Foos Guida, Red Wing Arts executive director.

In addition to graffiti history, they'll learn letter structure and aerosol techniques, and will experiment in drawing, creating collages, aerosol spray painting, stenciling and creating murals. No previous experience is necessary.

The workshop group will play a key role in designing the mural that will pay homage to the community in a contemporary way.

Russell plans to listen to all the workshop participants' ideas and concepts and convert them into an artistic composition the group can paint on the wall.

Because the makeup of the workshop is expected to be multi-generational, Russell expects a wide variety of suggestions. "Everybody has ideas to contribute," he said.

The mural "absolutely" will incorporate a word or text, he noted. "That's my main staple as a graffiti artist." The word or words are basic content, and the imagery supports what the text says.

The mural project aims to create a community connection. "That's one of my jobs," Russell said — "to get the public and the community to realize the benefits of the mural as an artistic asset."

Red Wing Arts shares his vision.

"If executed and shared in the correct way, graffiti art educates, is inclusive, and brings together groups from all backgrounds to highlight the strength, culture and history of a community," Foos said.

"It truly is a fine art work," program coordinator Lacy Schumann agreed.

Talk of creating a mural has been under way for months, Foos said. Discussion of public art began at a Red Wing 2040 planning session. The west business district location was suggested by Artisan Collective organizers who said they'd love to have art on their wall.

Red Wing Arts already was bringing Sprayfinger to town to work with Tower View students, with Southeast Minnesota Arts Council support. Officials decided to extend a similar opportunity to the community.

The mural project began taking shape. Officials learned that the Red Wing Housing and Redevelopment Authority had some funding available for public art. ArtReach joined the project, and the Wings Foundation added its support. Soon all the pieces were in place.

Russell is hopeful that some of the Tower View students who spent several weeks with him will be part of the mural activity. They already learned the basics of the process and created individual art works that have been on display at the Depot Gallery in a show titled "Alphabetical Graphology."

Anyone can sign up, said Schumann. "It's a commitment," since they are expected to participate both weeks.

She encouraged adults to think about participating with their children or grandchildren. "It's a way for them to connect and develop appreciation for a new art form," she explained.

Cost to join the two-week workshop is $350, "but we don't want the cost to discourage anybody," Schumann said. "We want all who are interested to participate. Reach out to us" if assistance is needed.

The local sponsors have provided funds for scholarships, she explained.

June 1 is the registration deadline. Go online to www.redwingarts.org or call 651-388-7569.

Red Wing Arts is optimistic that the mural project will reach out to many demographics, promote discussion of graffiti versus graffiti art, and reshape people's perception.

Russell has undertaken similar projects in other communities. A professional artist since 1990, he established House of Daskarone, an art studio/print shop/education studio to showcase his work and teach graffiti as an art form. That led to the creation of Juxtaposition Arts, a nonprofit.

In 2012 Russell was awarded a Bush Fellowship to launch his Sprayfinger program, teaching graffiti design concepts as an educational curriculum for all ages.

For a better understanding of Sprayfinger and his art, go online to www.sprayfinger.com.

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