This process has been an adventure. We started by studying African American artists; the deep creativity, culture and history of North Minneapolis; Dr. John Biggers murals and paintings; the Celebration of Life mural; and Adinkra symbols. The evolution all artists is based on a set of influences— our artistic lineage, symbolism and patterns in our heritage. Seitu Jones and Tacoumba Aiken shared with these influences to strengthen our artistic voices:
- The Benin kingdom and the Royal Family residence, where artists only could live in the City.
- Sungbo’s Eredo system of walls and ditches near the Yoruba town of Ljebu-Ode in Ogun state, southwest Nigeria.
- South Carolina and Georgia’s large earth works where rice was grown in the low country near the coast. Earth works representing the continuity of human life, now used for canoe tours that navigate the canals.
- Kongo cosmic gram.
- The Afro Atlantic tradition of the earth diagram.
- Haitian art verve.
- Mud used in sculpture reliefs and images in Ghana.
- The Sankofa symbol, which looks back on the past to create a future. A “call to prayer”.
- Objects that were not made not only to last, but so traditions and people would last.
- Thomas Day a noted wood worker, carpenter, and the black craftsman who built the Capital of Saint Paul, designed by Cass Gilbert, with a team of stone masons from Georgia, including Cass Blakey.
- Phillip Simmons iron gates in Charleston, South Carolina.
- David Drake (Dave the potter).
- El Anatsui, the Ghanaian artist, who creates very detailed works in reclaimed metal and stainless steel.
- In Chicago the Victory monument by Leonard Crunelle, honoring the Eighth Regiment (entirely African-American) during World War I, and William Walker’s Wall of Respect.
- Maurice Carlton. Rondo artist. He was a Garveyite (follower of Marcus Garvey).
- Hale Woodruff’s murals in libraries and in Hampton University.
- Edmonia Lewis, whose sculptures portrayed Native American and African American people.
- Richard Barthe, relief artist.
- Augusta Savage, artist and educator, beautiful piece called the harp.
- Aaron Douglas’s paintings at Phillips Wheatley and Bethune Elementary.
- Charles White.
- Romare Bearden.
- Faith Ringgold.
- Alvin Carter.
- Franco the Great.
- Cush bay (look him up). graffiti artist
- Kerry James Marshall.
- Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg project.
- In 1966, the people who started tagging and writing on public spaces, in train stations and transit ways.
“Sketchbooks keep the evolution of your craft honest.” Bing Davis
The art historical presentations that were part of SEED were quite extensive, but the sketching component was also extensive. These histories gave our team of artists a great understanding of where we needed to go next. We began to outline a story about the foundations of a seed and its growth from the inception of humanity. Afterward we began a group of sketches. Our first drafts were quite complicated, with each artist creating from their own personal view and style. The images were beautiful and vibrant and individually quite stunning. Each resembled the particular qualities of the personal work of each artist. Over time, however, through an extensive process of collaboration and revision, we have moved from these individual ideas to a series of segments that work together contributing to a strong continuum We are using deep, rich colors, taken from Dr. Biggers works, to celebrate the life of African Americans and the history and contemporary symbolism.
As an artist I enjoy this opportunity to create an orchestrated design that weaves the history of a community, the culture of a people, and the language of the two into the evolution of a future North Minneapolis.
Image: This sketches (left) and enamel works (middle and right) created for the Seed Project by Christopher-Aaron Deanes.