Mary Johnson has been Director of Education, and now Curator of Community Engagement, at Public Art Saint Paul since 2013. In this position, she directs the programs and community engagement at Western Sculpture Park as well as other educational activities. As a sculptor, she created Max Rabitat, commissioned for Western Sculpture Park in 2009. Mary is a teaching artist and has led the Youth Education Workshops planning since 2012. She has been an adjunct sculpture instructor at the College of St. Benedict and St John’s University, has taught classes and workshops at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities; Franconia Sculpture Park; Selby Avenue JazzFest; community art centers in Rochester, Minnetonka, and White Bear Lake; and at a host of other festivals, events, and workshops throughout the Midwest.
In her artistic practice, Mary utilizes recycled and repurposed materials for the creation of sculptural works.
Both the Minnesota DNR and Hudson, WI’s RiverFest have commissioned her to create large outdoor public sculptures made from materials gathered from river cleanups. These sculptures highlight the impact of our everyday actions on our precious public waters.
Esther Ouray has created worked locally, regionally, and internationally as a performing and teaching artist for over 30 years. In the capacity of puppeteer, actress, director, choreographer, and dancer, she has performed with many theatre companies in the Minneapolis area. Among them are Illusion, Interact, At the Foot of the Mountain, and Barebones. Esther is an associate artist with In the Heart of the Beast Theatre and a company member of Zamya Theater. She has been the recipient of grants from the MN State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Rimon, MRAC, Puffin Foundation, and Arts on Chicago.
Aaron Marx is an artist, designer, and educator working at the intersection of digital technology, architecture, and public space. Trained as an architect, with a background in mathematics and literature, Aaron teaches design in the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota, practices architecture, and creates multi-media participatory public art installations. Aaron’s art is multifaceted taking form in drawing, painting, projection, and the development of tools for civic engagement. He is active in the arts community as a member of Minneapolis Art on Wheels (MAW), MS Collective, and Public Art Saint Paul’s Collaboratory. Most recently, Aaron has exhibited work as an Art(ist) on the Verge fellow, participated in the Walker Art Center’s artist designed mini golf, and developed site specific participatory installations for Northern Spark.
Observing nature connects us with the landscape in new ways each time. It’s fun and anyone can do it. I create interventions that ask people to notice, document and share their experiences with nature. These may be collaborative screenprinting workshops that produce patterns from participants’ tree observations, a self-guided nature foray experience driven by a free field book and pencil, or textiles that put consumers into the role of naturalist collector.
My process begins with natural history topics I’m curious about. When an idea emerges, I spend time observing, photographing or drawing the subject. Right now I’m very interested in cottonwood trees, a common resident of Minnesota river floodplain forests. Cottonwoods have an interesting relationship with bees, who use the antimicrobial resin from cottonwood buds to build and protect their hives. The trees play other important roles, too, and there is concern about their future in the Mississippi River Gorge. Damming the river ended the annual flooding of river banks, preventing germination of cottonwood seeds. Few saplings and many very old trees present a challenge to future eagle nesting habitat. I seek to find a way to share stories like this through my art.
Eric F. Avery is an interdisciplinary artist who, recently, has been commissioned by Northern Lights.mn to create a piece for Northern Spark, awarded a Cultural Community Partnership Grant from Minnesota State Arts Board, and named a Naked Stages Fellow at Pillsbury House Theatre. Outside of creating his own work he has collaborated with Basil Twist, Mabou Mines, 10,000 Things, In the Heart of the Beast, Theatre Latte Da, Children’s Theatre Company, Public Art Saint Paul, Puppet Farm Arts, Savage Umbrella, and more.