In this mural project, Moira Villiard explored a tale of dragonflies she was told by Fond du Lac visual storyteller Vern Northrup. He told her dragonflies are seen as little spirits because they inhabit so many different bodies in their lifetime. "Aanjibimaadiziwag Manidoonsag" / "The Small Spirits are Changing Form" is a 60-by-16 feet acrylic mural that was finished in 2020.
Dragonflies are seen as little spirits that grow and transform, inhabiting different bodies in their lifetime. Brilliant dragonflies fly on a building in Lincoln Park, reminding the city of the resiliency of the Anishinaabe.
Moira Villiard organized a mural painting on the Seafarers Center as part of the “Art In This Present Moment” initiative by the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, funded by the McKnight Foundation.
Villiard collaborated with Michelle Waabanangagokwe Defoe, Heather Olson and Aurora Webster. Together, they painted a 60-by-16 feet mural with Indigenous symbolisms: ricing, florals, fish, dragonflies and a hand offering tobacco. The mural is titled “Aanjibimaadiziwag Manidoonsag” which means “The Small Spirits are Changing Form” in Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Anishinaabe.
“Art in This Present Moment” enables artists who are Black, indigenous, and People of Color to push boundaries on the dominant narratives through art. Villiard used this opportunity to continue creating more public art that is made with Indigenous people in mind.
"...being able to show that we create beautiful things and have beautiful stories and a beautiful presence, I think that’s really beneficial."
“I feel like a lot of the narrative people in our region has been negative and negative statistics and that’s all you really hear about the community as a whole,” Villiard told Fox 21, “so being able to show that we create beautiful things and have beautiful stories and a beautiful presence, I think that’s really beneficial.”
“We’ve had a lot of invisibility with native people so if you look at the history of this land here, we’ve coexisted for a long time now and so it’s really great to see our art in our part of the city be represented,” Defoe told Fox 21.
Villiard reached out to the Neighborhood Youth Services to organize a collaboration with local children. The inclusion of children is a significant part of the mural as children are the community’s future. To accommodate social
distancing, Villiard provided a dragonfly coloring sheet for children to design the dragonfly to be submitted online.
The mural is a brilliant contrast of blues and reds. The blues are used to represent the water that influences the culture surrounding Minnesota’s northland. It transitions dramatically to a red scene with dragonflies and a hand offering “asemaa” tobacco.
Each symbol is a prayer for a fulfilling life, and in order to live a full life one needs to be able to grow. These concepts themselves are often motifs of the Indigenous people and their histories: resilience and transformation. ∎
Lincoln Park Dragonfly Mural, 2020
Progress: Start to Finish
"Making of a Mural: Two Native women are lead women on Duluth mural" by Ramona Marozas
Press Relating to Project
Indian Country Today
Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation
Arrowhead Regional Arts Council
American Indian Community Housing Organization
Lincoln Park Resource Center/Hostel
In collaboration with Michelle Defoe (floral designer, painter)
Heather Olson (site assistant, painter, design contributor)
Aurora Webster (site assistant, painter, design contributor)
Laurel Saunders (vounteer)
Neighborhood Youth Services
Steve O’Neill Apartments
Daniell LaPorte (top right floral design)
Charles Obije for permission to paint on the building
Designs created by youth via in person painting and online submissions
Page by Suenary Philavanh