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Latest Event
2015 Legacy Day Mural

2015 Legacy Day Mural

The Blake School

The tunnel linking the Hopkins Lower School to the Middle School is undergoing a colorful transformation thanks to art teacher Seexeng Lee and a group of Blake student-artists. Look for more on this project in the months to come! (Video by Nadia Lee) [read more]

Post on: June 8, 2015 9:56:00 AM

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Seexeng Lee will be among forty artists to be recognized

Seexeng Lee will be among forty artists to be recognized

Post on: June 12, 2015 1:51:31 AM

Seexeng Lee will be among forty artists to be recognized
Artists to be recognized in Wadena's Murals of Minnesota History dedication
By Nancy Leasman

Twin Cities' artists Dixon Bordiano, James Penfield, Brenda Taylor and Seexeng Lee will be among the forty talented artists recognized on June 27 during the dedication of Wadena's Murals of Minnesota History Project. Over the last several years, volunteers and artists donated more than $300,000 in time, talent and labor to produce 95 murals on cement board. These panels have been installed throughout Wadena, a central Minnesota community with a population around 4,000, and represent 1,000 years of Minnesota history. With edges cut to resemble interlocking pieces, the murals represent more than 1, 475,000 square inches and constitute the world's largest picture puzzle.

June 27 has been designated as a day of tours, dedication and music to celebrate the completion of this project. A recognition program is scheduled at 5 p.m. at the Emporium in downtown Wadena.
Bordiano worked on two of the murals. "I worked on a solo mural that was based on aviation in Minnesota as well as a collaborative project with two other artists regarding the legend of the Kensington runestone."

"For both projects, a numerous amount of sketches were done, and we drew upon images we found online and in books. For my own painting, I wanted to create a collage of different images from different periods and advancements in the industry. I worked to develop a ground for my image, and considering that airmail had a significant impact on Minnesota aviation, as NWA has been a major airline, and one of the first to use airmail, I found it appropriate to use a vignette of an airmail envelope as my background. I wanted to create a dynamic composition that intertwined the various developments in aviation."

Bordiano worked with James Penfield and Brenda Taylor on a Viking themed mural. "For the Viking mural, we discussed and exchanged ideas and images that we obtained in our research of the runestone," says Bordiano. "We found conflicting evidence, so we went with a more illustrative style to portray the legend, rather than the actual historical facts. In essence, we wanted to create a storybook quality with our images and tell a linear narrative. Interestingly enough, the image reads right to left, possibly alluding to the whimsy that surrounds the myth (well, I don't really know if it's a myth or not)."

In addition to the collaborative work on the Viking mural, James Penfield delved into the history of Fort Snelling and uncovered some less popular views of the fort. "I was interested in painting Fort Snelling for a couple of reasons. I grew up very near the Fort and have toured its grounds a number of times. Recently, however, its presence seems to inflict a different story. As I'm older, I drive by countless protestors against the Fort's being, stationed on the high bridge (Hwy. 62). As I researched the story behind the Fort, I found its construction to be one founded on mass killing and overtaking and the destruction of a culture(s). This warped my idea of the Fort from how I knew it as a naive kid touring its ramparts, into an obstruction which would drive out and change the Native American population there at that time (and now), for the bad, with guns, money and whiskey. I learned that Colonel Snelling was an alcoholic, power hungry man, just to add to the now negatively viewed presence the Fort inflicts."

Viewing history from a vantage point ill defined by the state's history books enables a more realistic understanding of the effects on the people of the time. Penfield continues.

"This research allowed to develop a different vision of the Fort, which was great, being a visual artist. So the final product is intended to incite a different interpretation in the viewer, using a more modern' style, one that looks deeper into the story, with a portrait of Josiah Snelling juxtaposed by the Ojibwe crest."

"I'm very grateful that I had this opportunity and feel as though it allowed me to grow as an artist, both conceptually and visually," says Penfield.

Patrick Henry High School art teacher Seexang Lee, and his team, painted a Hmong history mural which is installed on the back on the Emporium. "I was and still am humbled and honored to have been selected to take part in this one of a kind art.' I am sure it is going to be a history in the making' project. The same sentiment was said and felt by my team. Our team of six Hmong artists spent the entire summer to complete a 12 feet by 20 feet mural capturing scenes of the Hmong migration to the United States. On the surface, it is about the Hmong, but underneath the surface, it is about all immigrants- our emotions and experiences as we make our way to here."

Local businesses, individuals and organizations donated materials, time, labor and encouragement for the project. The Initiative Foundation, Five Wings Arts Council, Wadena Lion's Club, Wadena State Bank, and Mid-Central Savings Bank are among those supporters.

Dan Frank, the Initiative Foundation's Program Manager for Community Development says,
"I think this is a great project on several levels, from an economic advantage standpoint, a visual arts asset and as a community building activity,"

Dean Uselman, a member of both the city council, when the program was initiated, and the Wadena Fire Department, appreciates the vision of the project's planners. "I think this is a very unique and creative project that will benefit Wadena for years to come. Many communities have a mural or two but none that I am aware of, anywhere, have a collection like this. It really is an asset to market the community."

Shirley Uselman, Executive Director, Wadena Chamber of Commerce, has been in a position to observe the effects of the project on the community. "The murals of Wadena not only bring in business, they offer travelers a break and a chance to stretch their legs. While wandering the alleyways, many people take the time to stop not only at a restaurant but in several of our businesses. Visitors comment about the feel of shopping in a small town and how helpful and knowledgeable our merchants are. We receive numerous comments on the complexity and history of the murals and have had many travelers stop just because they see them. With such a unique opportunity, we are weighing options and ideas for marketing the mural project."

James Penfield is excited about what the project can do for a small community as well as the potential career opportunities that may develop for the artists whose work has gained exposure from the project. "The concept behind this project is great, turning the small town of Wadena into a cohesive outdoor art gallery... genius. This experience left me with a new passion for working creatively with other people, artists and non (artists), something I'll pursue my entire life."

All of those involved in the Murals of Minnesota History project applaud David Evert, the visionary behind the project. Dixon Bordiano expresses that general feeling of appreciation, "I really thought that Dave was doing something particularly interesting and beneficial to the community. I remember going to a restaurant and sitting at a table while Dave conversed with a young boy who has a disability. It was at that point that I really started to believe in what Dave was trying to accomplish in Wadena, and I feel proud to be a part of it."

Source from: Originally provided by Nancy Leasman, from

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