FARGO — Artist Anna Johnson is known as a printmaker, but she’s currently making her mark on a much larger and harder surface. Over the past week, she has created a mural on the south side of Bernie’s Wines and Liquors, at the corner of University Drive and 16th Avenue South, Fargo.
It is the largest work artist Fargo has ever undertaken, both in size and scope, as it connects neighboring businesses to his roots on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.
The painting, “The Moon Also Rises,” was inspired in part by Luna Fargo, the restaurant adjacent to Bernies, and features designs from Johnson’s Chippewa and Cree heritage.
“How do you like it,” Johnson asks Nikki Ness Berglund, owner of Bernie’s and founder/owner of Luna Fargo, while taking a break from painting one morning.
“I love it,” says Ness Berglund.
“I’ve always tried to bring art into Midtown,” explains Ness Berglund. “I had always thought of a mural and was telling someone about it when Anna came in to buy some cheese. It was a coincidence.”
The two partnered and applied for funding for public art through the City of Fargo’s Commission on Art and Culture.
“Public art projects can help leverage private support for cultural, creative and artistic development,” said Joe Williams, director of community education at the Plains Art Museum and member of the Arts and Culture Commission. culture of Fargo, in a press release announcing the project. “The Fargo Arts and Culture Commission funds work that is inclusive and reflects our growing cultural diversity. The artistic and cultural assets of a community are important elements of economic development and can lead to the creation of creative, artistic or cultural districts, such as Midtown.
Midtown is basically 13th and 32nd Avenues in Fargo.
Johnson lives in the neighborhood, so she jumped at the chance to create a great piece of art.
“I’m happy to have the opportunity to do this,” she says. “I want my art to be accessible. That’s why I became an engraver, because it’s affordable. It’s great for people who can’t get to museums.
She draws inspiration from and uses floral designs from Ojibwa and Cree beaded flower designs.
“I try to update the colors from tradition to something more fresh and modern. Because it’s going to be there for a long time, I want it to be vibrant,” she says. “I really like these roses . My nieces said I really needed all the roses”
Johnson plans to add a hummingbird, similar to the one she tattooed on her arm for her nieces and may add a rabbit.
She incorporated these animals into her contribution to the “Welcome to Fargo” mural at the corner of Roberts Street and First Avenue North where she painted the letter A inside.
“I hope this opens the door for other people,” she says, hoping more businesses will consider adding a mural. “Anyone could do that.”
She also designed four utility boxes and a bench in downtown Fargo.
Johnson’s friend Heather Keeler, Moorhead State Representative and assistant director of multicultural recruiting at North Dakota State University, stopped by to see the painting and was impressed.
“It’s a sign to the native community that ‘You’re welcome,'” says Keeler, a member of the Yankton Sioux tribe.
Johnson appreciates when people come out and offer their support, whether from the sidewalk or from their car. She just has one request.
“Don’t honk when I’m in the air,” she said. “Catcalls are cool or whatever, but I’m surprised when people honk.”
Unlike some murals, she paints with brushes, even a broom for some larger areas and not with spray paint. Even the names of paintings amuse him.
“This blue is called Blueberry Hill, so I sing that while I work,” she says. “I need more paint. They love me at Ace.
Johnson works from a scissor lift to reach higher areas. She works in the morning and in the evening when the sun does not shine on her too much and takes a break from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. approximately.
“I live two blocks from here. I go home and just think about it,” she said.
Along with bringing some art to the neighborhood, Ness Berglund loves the project because it gives her a sense of permanence for her family businesses. Bernie’s was founded by her paternal grandfather and her father now owns the shop, while she runs it. She also founded and owns Luna next door.
Looking at the mural, she thinks of putting a bench in front of the painting so that people can appreciate everything. Johnson suggests adding a flower bed and the two talk about creating a coloring book and t-shirts based on the painting that could be available at Luna.
Johnson hopes to complete the job by Monday.