Residents walking along the Minnesota River in downtown Granite Falls might have noticed that the flood wall mural seems to have grown. Local artist and YME art teacher Tammy Isfeld (along with her students and others in the community) is putting the final touches on the mural. She recently sat down with the Advocate Tribune to talk about the project and what happens next.
Isfeld explained how each new section of the mural flows together, even if the themes and subjects portrayed in each panel is different. She accomplishes this by using a common color palette.Isfeld explained that viewers should be able to “turn and see something new” in each panel.
The new panel heavily features flowers, vegetation, and even a blue woman in the upper right hand corner. Isfeld says that the figure, which has generated a lot of conversation, is not drawn to scale. She describes the woman as a work of “fantasy,” adding that it is not meant to be photographic. In addition to the painted items, the new mural also features poetry composed by local writer Melanie Gabbert-Gatchell. Recently, Gabbert-Gatchell organized a poetry workshop with local residents. Each participant wrote a poem, Gabbert-Gatchell took one line from each, and stitched together an entirely new poem using those lines.
Although Isfeld created the original mural design, she has relied heavily on support from her art students and from other local residents interested in the project. She relates how people with a variety of skill levels have come to help out with the painting, adding that’s it a great community event.
For each new addition to the mural, Isfeld goes through a basic process. First, she preps the wall by removing any mold or vegetation and then patches cracking. After that, she covers the surface with a high quality primer. Isfeld explains that this step is critically important since the mural will eventually be exposed to a wide range of weather and temperatures.
Nevertheless, Isfeld says that the murals aren’t necessarily permanent. In fact, she expects new murals to be painted on in the coming years. “It will never be boring,” she explained, adding that “there will always be something new on the wall.” She is excited to see what the community comes up with next in future years.
Under the provisions of the Legacy art grant that is funding the project, additional mural panels will be painted. The mural will eventually wrap around the base of the Berge building, however, Isfeld says that they are encountering unexpected obstacles which might push back the additions to the spring of next year. The stucco siding of the building is surprisingly fragile, and is crumbling in certain areas. Isfeld said that they will need to repair the base first before they proceed with painting. Unfortunately, the cost of the repairs are not covered by the grant, which means that they will need to fundraise for the rest.
In spite of the unforeseen setbacks, Isfeld believes that the murals have already transformed the riverfront area. She believes that the mural “will lend itself well to events, musical festivals, artist changes” and other community oriented events, adding that “positive art helps get the momentum going” for other projects and events.
The space behind the Berge Building has become a popular gathering spot. Graduating seniors and wedding parties can be routinely spotted taking pictures in front of the mural, while others simply stroll by to enjoy the view. As the mural steadily grows in the coming months and years, it is likely that the space will only increase in popularity.