The Hand Painting’s on the Wall
This story was originally published in Minnesota Magazine, the magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association.
The area in and around the University’s West Bank is home to several eye-catching murals, but one in particular vividly combines elements of the area’s past and present. Designed by Sara Kelly (BA ’10, art), the 40-foot by 60-foot mural on the south-facing wall of the Keefer Court Bakery & Café at Cedar Avenue and Riverside pays homage to the Chinese immigrants who once lived on the West Bank by incorporating cultural symbols, including a cat and a dragon.
Kelly worked with Somali and Oromo teens from the neighborhood using primarily aerosol spray paint to create the mural. To give it a distinctly Cedar-Riverside feel, the color of the dragon matches that of the nearby Green Line light rail and its tail is dotted with bus lights. The wrapper on the bakery’s famous cherry nest cake depicts the 35W bridge with the Mississippi River swirling above and below it.
Kelly has been designing and creating murals in collaboration with communities since she graduated from the University with a degree in fine art. After graduation she started teaching hip-hop and volunteering at churches to develop hip-hop curricula for youth. In 2012, Kelly formed Hip Hope, through which she teaches an array of arts, including dance, rap, drawing, painting, and music video making. She loves being an artist, but she’s also keenly aware of her role as a mentor. “I always tell them it’s good to have dreams and stick with them, but the heart has to come first, and then the art, and then the money part,” she says. “As long as things stay in that order, you’ll be happy and have peace.”