Featured Stories, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Murals and a photo exhibit offer new hue

St. Paul’s Lutheran in Phillips neighborhood engages young peoples’ creativity


This mural graces the outside back wall of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis. The inscription recently added above it reads: “There is a river that makes glad the city of God.” Photo provided by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church

Artistic skills are blossoming in God’s backyard. That’s the report from St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood. St. Paul’s, originally serving Swedish immigrants, now serves a growing Hispanic population in south Minneapolis.

Photography, mosaics, and painted murals are among the skills being developed. “Young people aren’t afraid to try new things, and their artistic skills are proliferating,” according to the Rev. Patrick Cabello Hansel who serves the congregation along with his wife, the Rev. Luisa Cabello Hansel. The art program has been a part of the outreach of St. Paul’s over the past three years. Pastor Patrick noted that the Phillips neighborhood surrounding the church has the youngest demographics in the city, and children’s activities are a way to reach out to the community.

At the time of Metro Lutheran’s interview with Pastor Patrick, St. Paul’s young photographers had an exhibit, titled “God’s Backyard,” at Mercado Central, a multi-business “mall” nearby on Lake Street. Their developing skills have attracted excellent reviews and Pastor Patrick is looking for a new location for the exhibit when the current showing ends.

The photo exhibit has also been shown at Edina Community Lutheran Church and Transfiguration Lutheran Church in Bloomington (both ELCA), partner congregations with St. Paul’s.

"Fenced in, fenced out" is one of the photographs included in "God's Backyard" photo exhibiit. All photos provided by St. Paul's Lutheran Church

Unleashed in the neighborhood

For this exhibit, children used disposable cameras and a few digital cameras in the exploration of their neighborhood which they like to think of as God’s backyard — the place where people play, barbecue, and interact — rather than in the front yards.

Painting skills show up in the neighborhood, mainly in alleys and side streets where “taggers” frequently leave graffiti. St. Paul’s youth have completed 10 murals, contributing to a lively scene in the church’s neighborhood. Three nearby ELCA congregations, often referred to as the “Three Sisters,” have also done murals. Those congregations are Mount Olive, Messiah, and Our Savior’s, all ELCA congregations. Pastor Patrick says there are about 24 murals in the neighborhood.

Murals sometimes get new graffiti over them and are repaired as soon as new graffiti is spotted. Local hardware stores have donated paint brushes and custom-mixed paints which had been returned to the store. A local paint manufacturer has also donated paint. Neighbors with graffiti-filled garage walls facing the alley are asked if they’d like a mural. High school students interview them, and their ethnic backgrounds and personal preferences are taken into consideration in designing the murals.

"Wounded Beauty" is one of the popular examples of the photographs taken by young people associated with St. Paul's.

The lower portion of light poles that have been “tagged” by graffiti artists also become projects for the young St. Paul’s artists.

A mural on the back outside wall of St. Paul’s (see the photo above) includes a quotation from Psalm 46:4 inscribed above the artwork: “There is a river that makes glad the city of God.”

St. Paul’s, which is 120 years old and a “daughter church” of Augustana Lutheran in Minneapolis, currently has about 130 members and averages 80 worshippers per Sunday, with one service in English and another in Spanish. The latter serves a Latino community representing Mexico, Ecuador, and other countries.

Pastor Luisa is originally from Chile. The clergy couple came to Minneapolis from Philadelphia where they were involved with a start-up church. They came to St. Paul’s under a call from the Minneapolis Area Synod to develop a “Latino strategy.”

"A shoes-eye view" challenges the observer to think of life from a different angle of vision.

A summer program attracts 60-70 youth and serves about 30-40 young people during the school year. Many students come from nearby Anderson Elementary School (which has an enrollment of 1,200), but other schools are also represented. Word of the arts programs at St. Paul’s is spread by students, and interest is growing, according to Cabello Hansel.

When spring weather arrives, the alleys around the church neighborhood would make an interesting tour. The church is located at 2742 15th Avenue South. Pastor Patrick can be reached at 612/296-2231 or by e-mail at phcreate@aol.com.

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