My Minnesota: Melanie Mozingo, MIA children's art teacher

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 28, 2014 - 5:15 PM

“Not all good artists are dead.” Melanie Mozingo

Every parent worries their child’s brain will rot during the long summer months. Read a book! Study math! Do something. If your child is interested in art, you could always send them to classes at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where they’re reminded of two important lessons in life: Creativity is an essential element to a well-rounded existence, and DON’T TOUCH THE REMBRANDT.

One of the teachers is Melanie Mozingo, a Minnesota native whose classes include materials as varied as acrylic paints and Shrinky-Dink plastic sheets. She loves art, teaching, and kids — so this must be the perfect job, right?

“It is! It’s about helping the kids to make the connections between the pieces in the permanent collection, and creating in the studio. My favorite is the mini field trip — if a kid is going a certain path and it reminds me of a piece in the permanent collection, we go up and have a talk one-on-one by the piece.”

The classes connect kids with the art of the ages as well as teach them how to collaborate, a necessary element when the work’s too big for one person. Melanie also helps paint murals around town, including the Hiawatha rail station, and a project in her Corcoran neighborhood.

“Just outside my door we painted the first pavement mural in Minneapolis. We noticed there was so much traffic, so we went out with sidewalk chalk, and claimed the space.” Thanks to a grant and some help from Valspar, paint replaced the chalk. Not just public art, but art you can drive over.

“It was intended to encourage everyone to slowwww down, take look. There were drawings of three bikes going one direction, bees going down one direction, birds going down another, the Midtown Farmers Market logo with vegetables spilling out of the basket.”

Art begot more art: “A guy down the block brought his accordion, his son brought his trumpet, and they serenaded while we worked. A lady brought ice cream. One of our neighbors climbed up a tree and made a film of the project.”

Sounds fun, and makes you wonder why there’s not more intersection art. No one likes those bumps that slow down traffic; perhaps a drawing of a giant sink hole would have the same effect.

There’s no shortage of people who could draw it. “Not all good artists are dead, I tell the students,” she says. “Art is still a living breathing thing, and it’s about how we’re living now.”

Yes. But surely you may think of other cities with more art, and yearn to leave. Why stay here?

“Hot dish,” she says, emphatically. “Well, and bingo. Trumps everything.”

James Lileks

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