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Hennepin Theatre Trust and Clear Channel Outdoor partner to create Art Connects Us, a public art exhibit displayed on metro billboards

April 15, 2020

Eleven local artists created original digital artwork to offer hope and gratitude to those working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic

MINNEAPOLIS (April 15, 2020) — Hennepin Theatre Trust today announced a partnership with Clear Channel Outdoor, which will display ten works of original artwork by Minnesota-based artists. The digital public art installation will present images and messages of hope to those affected by COVID-19 and gratitude for the people working on the front lines. Mark Nerenhausen, president and CEO for the Trust said, “Those sentiments of hope and gratitude are important to the community at this time and we decided to leverage our network of artists to accomplish this.“ Art Connects Us launches today and runs through the end of May on billboards in the Twin Cities.

In response to current social distancing guidelines, the Trust is transforming some of its programs to virtual spaces. For example, the Trust’s education department is offering online masterclasses for Spotlight Education high school students multiple times a week. In that same spirit of adaptation, Trust leaders conceived a public art project that could engage people beyond the downtown streets and contacted Clear Channel because of their demonstrated support of arts and culture initiatives.

“We share the community’s concerns about the impact COVID-19 is having on all of us. We appreciate and value the efforts of those who are providing the needed care and essential services to the public,” said Daniel Ballard, Minneapolis branch president of Clear Channel Outdoor. “We’re proud to partner with Hennepin Theatre Trust on this project and are providing rotating inventory on 60 roadside digital signs throughout the five-county metro area at no cost to the Trust.” Ballard estimates that Art Connects Us will reach more than 13 million people throughout the duration of the exhibit.

“Artists are essential in their communities, especially in times of distancing,” saidJoan Vorderbruggen, who leads the Trust’s public art programs. “We saw an opportunity to mobilize local creatives and wanted to provide a canvas for them to express their sense of solidarity and unity.” Vorderbruggen praised the artists for being willing to turn the work around in a matter of days as they too saw the importance of this moment.

“We applaud and fully support the Trust’s public art efforts, like Made Here and now Art Connects Us. These enable local artists to create unexpected cultural experiences for anyone who works, plays or lives in Minneapolis, and we are excited to see this program extend to the metro area,” said Melvin Tennant, president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis. “The Trust, like all of us, has been finding new ways to engage with the public and showcase what makes Minneapolis unique. This initiative will help drive cultural vitality, which is essential now and when we’re able to welcome visitors back to the Minneapolis region.”

Both emerging and internationally renowned artists are represented in Art Connects Us with 60% from communities of color. Collectively, the digital artwork will showcase a sense of hope and motivation during these uncertain times. Like many, graffiti artist Reggie LeFlore is losing potential opportunities due to social distancing. “The pandemic has caused a lot of my upcoming mural and public art projects to either be canceled or postponed, and fortunately, organizations like Hennepin Theatre Trust are able to provide resources to support us local creatives to inspire others in such difficult times,” said LeFlore. He added that the compensation from this project allows him to continue his studio work to contribute to his rent and utilities on time.

The artist lineup includes:

  • Bill and Beverly Cottman, a husband and wife team with a focus on photography and storytelling
  • Wing Young Huie, a nationally recognized Minneapolis-based photographer, author and winner of the 2020 Award for Excellence from the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication Alumni Society Board
  • Steven Lang, a photographer and writer, recipient of a Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Artist Initiative Grant and a Loft Mentor Award
  • Reggie LeFlore, a street and graffiti artist performing live stencil and mural paintings throughout the city
  • Kathy McTavish, a Duluth-based composer, coder and trans media artist
  • Marlena Myles, a self-taught digital artist bringing modernity to indigenous history
  • Dana Sikkila, a printmaker, founder of Project Bike and executive director of Mankato’s 410 Project
  • Kao Lee Thao, a digital-media artist and founder of 3D-animation Folklore Studio
  • Lizardman, artist, illustrator, muralist and co-founder of Rogue Citizen
  • Edwin Yang, video artist and chef

The Art Connects Us project is a unique way that the Trust is responding to the changing cultural landscape brought about by the COVID-19 situation. Nerenhausen said, “we’re grateful to Clear Channel Outdoor for providing a virtual canvas for artists looking to make a positive impact in a time when urgently need joyful, hopeful and energizing experiences.”

The project launches April 15 and runs through the end of May. To learn more about the artists, and to see their digital artwork, please visit HennepinTheatreTrust.org/ArtConnectsUs. #ArtConnectsUs

Hennepin Theatre Trust drives cultural and economic vitality in Minnesota through leadership of the dynamic Hennepin Theatre District in downtown Minneapolis and educational programming that reaches every area of the state. Its historic theatres — Orpheum, State and Pantages — and event center at 900 Hennepin Avenue light up Hennepin Avenue with top-tier entertainment, including the best of Broadway and a wide variety of arts programming. Hennepin Theatre Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Learn more at HennepinTheatreTrust.org.