Creativity in Community: An Evening with Local Artists

This month, we partnered with the Community Education Advisory Council for a conversation with four local artists about the creative process and the role of creativity in community. Artists Mari Harris, Xiaojie Liu, Stacia Goodman, and Dan Israel (pictured below left to right) each shared stories of how they came to be artists, how they approach their work, and how art helps us to connect.

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As Mari Harris put it, it’s really all about getting up in the morning and doing what needs to be done. And while her charm is undeniable and her joy contagious, Mari shared that there’s no magic touch—you have to show up and put in the work. Mari’s energy and singing inspired the Rec Center Banquet Room that evening, as it does for audiences when and wherever she performs. Her big dream? To be the one you call when someone’s spirit needs lifting.

Stacia Goodman is a self-trained mosaic artist whose work you may have seen in the atrium of the SLP Rec Center or at Terminal 2 at MSP Airport. Stacia finds creative inspiration in everyday objects and in patterns she finds throughout her day, like the carpeted floor she joked might be a distraction to our discussion. She brings found and upcycled objects into many of her artworks as a way for people to find connections to the spaces around them.

While Stacia works primarily with large-scale installations in public and commercial spaces, Xiaojie Liu, a recent MFA graduate from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, works at a smaller scale as an illustrator. Xiaojie shared that she comes from an ethnic minority in her home country of China, and experienced quite a culture shock when she came to live in Minnesota. As a result, a lot of her personal work is inspired by memories of home and being between two cultures. Recently, she was commissioned to illustrate the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, which is set to be published this year.

Dan Israel, a singer-songwriter born and raised in St. Louis Park, just released his 14th album last year. Over the years, Dan’s songwriting process has changed and evolved from recording lyric and melody ideas on cassette recorders to digital ones. And though he’s told himself many times that the next album will be his last, the music just keeps on coming. Dan recently left a full-time job he worked for a few decades to put more time and energy into his music and personal life, and his newest album, You’re Free, chronicles that experience. While his songs tend to be autobiographical, his hope is that there’s enough space in his music for every listener to connect to it in their own way.

Thanks again to everyone who came out to support and hear from these artists, and to the St. Louis Park Community Education Advisory Council for inviting Friends of the Arts to partner on their Heart of the Matter Community Discussion series. To learn more about these artists and see more of their work, you can visit their websites:
Mari Harris, Xiaojie Liu, Stacia Goodman, Dan Israel