Eight murals were created this week along north 48th Street in Lincoln as part of the LUX Center for the Arts’ Emerge LNK: Mural+Street Festival.
Emerge LNK is a mural project that seeks to bring joy to the community and uplift small businesses as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several University of Nebraska–Lincoln students, faculty and alumni worked on the murals, which were created by artists Shawn Dunwoody, Ishknits, Ana Marietta, Eder Muniz, Oria Simonini (2018 Husker graduate), Focus Smith, Nolan Tredway (a 2004 graduate) and Watie White at 10 locations throughout University Place. The project was curated by Katelyn Farneth, the exhibition and gallery shop director at LUX Center for the Arts.
The permanent mural installations will be unveiled at 5 p.m. Sept. 3. A map and additional details are available here.
“While having a street art festival in Lincoln has been a dream of mine for a decade, one person alone really cannot do it,” said Sandra Williams, an associate professor of art who is teaching the online course, “Street Art: Visual Voice in the Urban Environment,” and an Honors seminar, “Graffiti Revolution.” “I am so grateful that the Lux took up the mantle of making public art available in North Lincoln, and for embracing a form of art for the people, by the people. The heavy lifting was really done by Katelyn Farneth. It is a Herculean task. My hope is that the city will see this as a positive thing, and that building owners and neighborhood associations will be willing to work with my visiting artists in the future, so that we, as a community, begin to look as vibrant and diverse as we are.”
Three of the participating artists have been part of the School of Art, Art History and Design’s Hixson-Lied Visiting Artist Lecture series recently. Dunwoody was a virtual visiting artist last fall and is creating a mural at the Veterans of Foreign War at 2431 N. 48th St. Jessie Hemmons/Ishknits was a virtual visiting artist last spring and has a yarnbomb piece at the Vance D. Rodgers Center for Fine Arts at North 50th and Huntington Avenue. Ortiz was the Hixson-Lied Visiting Artist lecturer this week on Sept. 1. Her mural is located at Suds N’ Scissors, 2621 N. 48th St.
“It’s wonderful that the Hixson-Lied Visiting Artist program has contributed to the intellectual and cultural life of Lincoln, and that UNL has forged strong bonds that facilitate important relationships between significant, internationally recognized artists, and that local organizations like the Lux are able to benefit from the education this vibrant program has provided—not just to the university, but to everyone,” Williams said.
Dunwoody worked with the Veterans of Foreign Wars to create the design for his mural on their building.
“This is the headquarters for the state of Nebraska, so they wanted something patriotic and connected to those who have served and will continue to serve, and to create a space that people will know where it is,” Dunwoody said.
His experience creating the mural in Lincoln has been a good one, as a number of students and other community members have helped him paint.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “People have jumped up to the task.”
Dunwoody likes street art for that engagement with people.
“I used to be a gallery guide, but I stepped away from that because I felt I wanted to be what I wanted to see when I was 15 years of age,” he said. “You’re not going to see that in a gallery wall space. But you’re going to see it if you’re on a corner, if you’re walking down the street on a sidewalk. You can see a person like myself creating artwork. That’s why I do it. I’ve been at this for 20 years. This is what I do.”
Williams has participated in making murals for almost two decades, including one located at the Lincoln Airport.
“Murals are good for cities. They make them safer, more walkable,” Williams said.
Several School of Art, Art History and Design students and alumni have come out to help paint, including students from Williams’ honors course and the UNL Street Art and Mural Club.
School of Art, Art History and Design alumna Rikki Neumann (2017) was helping paint Dunwoody’s mural. She was enjoying a return to making art.
“I started my own business about nine months ago because I’m also a boxing coach,” Neumann said. “I kind of took a break from art, and I really miss painting. I heard about this, so I signed up to volunteer. It’s been really amazing helping with all these great artists. This is my third day helping, and my daughter was out here helping Shawn yesterday, too. For me, personally, it brings me a lot of joy, not only to work on it, but to see it. The colors and the messages it gives the community are just really positive and hopeful.”
Williams said street art contributes to the geopolitics of emotion of communities.
“While I was helping Shawn with his mural on the side of the VFW, people came out and thanked him, made sure we had water and were very moved,” she said. “These murals are already making an impact on people’s daily lives, and they are not even finished yet. Murals generate conversation — all art does — but these are accessible. The diversity of artists and their work, in turn, is a more accurate reflection of the different cultures and people of our fair city.”
Neumann said it was a wonderful addition to the community.
“It’s so cool just to see it. It’s awe-inspiring just to see something this big,” she said. “Somebody came up with it in their head and put it on paper, and then put it on this gigantic wall. It’s a pretty cool thought just to think about how it came about and all the work that went into it.”
Neumann said she was getting something out of volunteering, too.
“The best part about this for me is just being able to get together with community, especially over the last year when we’ve had a lot of times of isolation,” she said. “Just being able to connect with other artists and seeing the happiness it brings them. It’s all contagious, and we feed off of that with each other. They’ve expressed a lot of gratitude toward me helping, but really I’m grateful to be helping.”