Granite Falls residents out walking this past weekend might have noticed a new addition to the floodwall. The vibrant colors of the half-finished mural seem to jump off the dull concrete wall next to the west bank of the walking bridge. Work on the art project (which is part of the ‘Riverside Voices’ revitalization project) began during the Meander weekend, and will hopefully kick-off a number of additional public art projects in Granite Falls.
The City of Granite Falls and the Granite EDA are each contributing $1,250 to the project. The mural is also funded through small private donors, in addition to a grant given to the Granite Area Arts Council form the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council (SMAC) and the state’s legacy fund.
YME art teacher Tamara Isfeld serves a project manager. She has overseen similar mural projects in Granite Falls and is excited by the opportunity to create new murals along the river. She says that the idea for a mural has been around ever since the floodwall was constructed after the 1997 flood. “It is a nice space, but it doesn’t have much else going for it,” Isfeld said. “Bringing art that can be seen from either side of the river will hopefully get people looking and talking about art.”
The Granite Falls City Council worked to make the space available for the mural. Mayor Dave Smiglewski thinks that the floodwall is an ideal place for the mural, saying that “our floodwall areas offer a unique opportunity for a public art palette. The walls themselves are not unattractive but adding a colorful mural with representations of the community and our riverside and valley setting is a fun way for the public to see what is possible and to make out already beautiful community even more attractive.”
The new mural shows two pelicans standing on a shoreline with a bright sunlight sky in the background. Isfeld explains how she uses color to divide the mural into a warm upper half and a cool lower half. She said she wanted a mural that was “easy to interpret and relate to.” The mural is filled with symbols that represent the Granite Falls area. “It celebrates many of the things that make Granite Falls the place that we love,” said Smiglewski. There is also a mosaic component to the project. According to Isfeld, “the mosaic will consist of found objects such as jewelry or broken dishes, glass, and ceramic tile.” Isfeld added that “this is a community project so the goal is to get people involved in the creating of the painting and the mosaics.”
The mural is just the first in what project organizers hope will be many more public art displays. “There are many possibilities and we don’t have any particular project in the works right now,” said Mayor Smiglewski. “However, there certainly is some room for street sculpture in certain places in downtown Granite or in the public areas along or near the river as well as other murals, or smaller paintings.” He added that he hopes that this project will help inspire others in the community to become more excited about public art in Granite.
Isfeld hopes to see people from the community get involved with the project. She explained that there will be opportunities for people to help out with painting, mosaic making, and even writing poetry for the creative writing portion of the project. Isfeld also added that anyone “can stop down to the KK Berge art council and sign up. We will have scheduled dates and times to work either painting outside or as it gets cooler in the building to work on the mosaics.”
Isfeld and others involved in the project are excited about the prospect of future displays. For Isfeld, this mural is about publicizing what Granite is all about. “Small towns are starting to change the tide of having to go to the cities to find art and culture,” she explained. “Who wouldn't want to visit a small lively, open-minded town that has an art vibe?” While there are no new mural designs, additional space along the floodwall and the back of the K.K. Berge building have been designated for future projects.