News & Stories

Theodore Wirth Park in Paint

On a Saturday this past February, families from the Northside Homeschool Group and Loppet Staff came together to create a visual welcome into Theodore Wirth Park in the form of a 9×9 foot acrylic painted mural.

The project was spearheaded by Elissa Cedarleaf Dahl, who is a 20-year North Minneapolis resident, muralist, painter, nordic skier, and art teacher at Justice Page School. During one of the Loppet Foundation’s all-staff racial equity discussions last summer, which encouraged staff members to find ways to make the outdoors more accessible, guest speaker Justice Alan Page suggested creating a mural with Northside families and proposed Elissa as a potential artist to facilitate the project. 

Elissa has done various special projects and consulting with the Loppet Foundation, including Art Adventure Camps, Share Winter Foundation photobooths, and Racial Equity Professional Development Consulting. Her favorite form of art-making is collaborative muralism, and examples of her work can be found all over the city – now including Theodore Wirth Park. 

Elissa credits Justice Page for his suggestion to create a mural with northside families as a “valuable visual welcome” to the Trailhead.

“We named our school after Justice Alan Page, and he is a stakeholder on our collaborative student mural projects. He understands the impact of public art and representation,” said Elissa.

Justice Page School features Alan Page (upper right) in one of its murals

Ray Aponte, Interim Executive Director at the time, worked with Elissa to set the project into motion. Elissa describes the project here:

Families from the Northside Homeschool Group and Loppet Staff painted the mural together. First, we brainstormed all the activities we do at Theodore Wirth Park. Then, we brainstormed what we see when doing those activities. Finally, we named the colors of the things on our list, and the kids started mixing hues with acrylic paints to match what we see at the park – grey squirrels, brown hot chocolate, magenta Sumac leaves, pink snow boots, icy blue Luminary Loppet sculptures, lime green grasses, and more. Participants used their custom-mixed colors on the 9’ X 9’ vinyl canvas to paint the objects they had in mind. We all contributed content in-the-round, without an up or down orientation, sharing what we were painting and adding abstract color fields with the leftover paint. Longer-armed adults painted the inside and the shorter artists got the edges. When we had covered 90% of the white, we stepped back, admired the artistry and photographed the progress. From there, I worked myself on creating the whole of the parts; bringing color schemes through, establishing a setting and highlighting the individual contributions. What you see now is the visual manifestation of how some of our Northside neighbors experience Theodore Wirth Park; the richness, dynamism, and beauty of being welcomed into the outdoors.

The acrylic painting is on a recycled Loppet vinyl sign, and can be found in the hillside outdoor frame right outside of The Trailhead, west of the entrance by the Area 36 sign.

Next time you are at Theodore Wirth Park, see if you can find the following details within the art: the bike trails map, a rope tow, a bluebird, the moon, a squirrel, a cowbell, and a golf ball!

You can check out more of Elissa’s work at her website