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Midway Murals Adds Vibrancy to Little Africa

Five colorful murals on African immigrant owned businesses by the Snelling Avenue Green Line stop has added vibrancy to the concept of Little Africa.

Visitors entering the area will be greeted with a beautiful mural, called “Braided” by artist Greta McLain bringing out the vibrancy of African immigrants and the beauty salon and other businesses on that block.

A little further one would be captivated with themes from African culture in a beautiful mosaic painting, “Berebere” by artist Lori Greene.

Two blocks down on Snelling Cafe one would find a mural called “Convergence” that captures to a great extent the philosophy of cafe owner, Efworke Bein, who views his restaurant as an open space welcoming to all. On the other side of the building is a mosaic painting by Lori Greene in partnership with artists from Boys Totem Town that captures the theme of Little Africa, “Lift as You Climb.”

Further down the road is an Asian themed mural by, YuyaNegishi, called “Birth of a New Day.”

This is a project of Midway Murals in partnership with African Economic Development Solutions and local artists. African immigrant artists assisted with the project. Local artist Jonathan Oppenheimer was the project leader. The project was a winner of the Knight Green Line Challenge grant in 2014 and secured additional funding from other sources.

The Little Africa component of the project gained steam after the Little Africa Fest in the summer of 2014 when local resident and artists Jonathan Oppenheimer and Lori Greene engaged with Little Africa project leader Gene Gelgelu and other members of the Little Africa Development Group. Gene Gelgelu worked hard to secure funding to provide two African immigrant artists to work with the projects to learn and contribute their talents to the project. He also worked in securing support from the local businesses for the project. Gelgelu saw this as an opportunity to integrate the work of Little Africa with other activities on the Green Line.

“Our desire is to use art and culture as a catalyst for economic development within

Mesfin Negia and Gene Gelgelu

the community, ” said Gene Gelgelu. ” With between 50 to 60 African owned businesses in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, Little Africa offers the promise of revitalization and economic gain, in a community struggling to rebrand itself as more than the neighborhood you pass on your way to the State Fair. “We want to create a sustainable impact in the .community.” Gelgelu believes in the potential for Little African to create sustained job growth in the community and in the prospect of attracting tourism, thus furthering the economic growth of the area.

“It was a great pleasure to represent our Ethiopian Communityinmn at the Midway Art Festival,” said Mesfin Negia, Executive Director of the Ethiopian Community of Minnesota and on the leadership team for Little Africa. “Indy Jamal was great , as always.”  Indy Jamal is a local artist whose dance at the festival was viewed by thousands on Facebook.

Little Africa is a marketing and branding strategy to create a unique destination space where visitors will enjoy a unique “African” experience. It is also a virtual network connecting the dispersed African immigrant businesses together to help them market their products and services to a larger market and bring visibility to African immigrant entrepreneurs.

The murals went live at the Midway Arts Festival August 29, 2015.

Lori Greene, Berbere, 555 Snelling Avenue

Lori Greene, 638 Snelling Avenue (additional mural not part of the project)

Greta McLain, Braided, 512 Snelling Avenue

BLASTER, Convergence, 638 Snelling Avenue

Yuya Negishi, Birth of a New Day, 689 Snelling Avenue