‘Anthem for hope’: New artwork unveiled at Foshay on George Floyd’s birthday

The W Minneapolis Foshay Hotel has a new piece of artwork on display on what would have been George Floyd’s 48th birthday.

"A piece of art that was going to tell the story of our city wasn’t going to be complete without including George Floyd," General Manager Christy Loy said. "It tells the story of the iconic places of the city, but it also tells the truth about the evolution of our city and the changes that are needed to make this a city for all its residents."

The W-shaped piece — called "Iconic Minneapolis" — is filled with powerful images. Floyd, Martin Luther King Jr., Prince, Bob Dylan, and many more are represented.

"It’s an anthem for hope," declared Hollie Blanchard, the co-founder of ArtGirls Minneapolis and the project’s curator. "I think this piece represents hope for a really dark time for Minneapolis."

Julius Davis, a voice-over artist from Minneapolis, was among those drawn to the unveiling.

During the event, he was thinking about George Floyd and the square that has evolved at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.

"So, it’s a special place, a special place for his spirit," Davis said. "He’s a part of Minnesota history, he’s a part of national history, he’s a part of world history. Art is a way of reflecting, a way of creating. It’s a sort of settling things that might be a conflict."

The work was an idea born this past March.

"This dream started a while ago when we were still locked in the pandemic and not being able to be together," Loy noted.

In a St. Louis Park studio, a trio of artists — painter-photographer Stephanie Dillon, painter-illustrator Linnea Maas and photographer Jon Linton — used spray paint, graphic design and photos to make something very beautiful.

"I feel like their emotions are coming through with this piece," Blanchard said. "It’s going to pull you in, it’s going to make you feel something, whatever emotion that could be, but that’s what fine art does."

For a time, the giant decorative "W" was used for branding for the hotel. But at the start of this project, it was sitting in a storage closet, plain and unadorned, but not anymore.

The piece will have a prominent place in a front entryway of the hotel.

"I think art connects. I think it’s a vehicle to transcend and drive us to a better place to allow us to have momentum, and learn from our mistakes," Blanchard said. "But it also captures what we felt in that time and space."

The piece is reminiscent of the plywood art that began appearing in the city after Floyd’s death.

Some were simple sketches, others were complex works of art, drawn on plywood boards used to protect homes and businesses from damage.

Susan Leppke, of Minneapolis, is a fan of the new work.

"So, I’m hoping, and I know for a fact that this piece will bring healing, and bring change, and bring forth conversations," she said. "It’s not necessarily about the plywood. It’s about the fact that people want to leave their mark. People want to say something happened here. Please remember that something happened here."

Blanchard said she and the other creators of this project are reflecting on Floyd’s death and the family that’s left behind.

"There’s a sense of sadness that this even had to happen," she explained. "I think about his family and his daughter and what they must be feeling. But I hope as a whole with Minneapolis, that we can all come together and learn from our mistakes, and be better for it."

Loy says her family lives near George Floyd Square and visits there on a regular basis. So, the unveiling on this day was an emotional event.

"We had a desire to tell a story, to bring people together, to make something beautiful, and I think we’ve done that," she said. "I’m just grateful for an opportunity to be a part of something that’s bigger than us."