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Erik’s Story

“The work I am doing in my neighborhood is a direct inspiration from the collaborative work I did as a Lanesboro Artist in Residence,” Pearson says.

While most artists try to protect their unique artistic touch, Erik Pearson has spent his career teaching others how to imitate his work. For example, he just finished a mural at the Valley View Middle School in Bloomington where he taught children from an after-school program to collaborate on his work.

“It forces you to analyze your own style and it’s really exciting when one student picks it up right away and does really well,” says Pearson as he reflects on the process of teaching others his distinctive designs.

In 2001, as the first Artist in Residence at Lanesboro Arts, Pearson taught a community drawing class, gave art presentations in the Lanesboro Schools and worked on a series of paintings. He promptly quit his job to pursue art full-time and has never regretted it. Today, Pearson finds himself a part of a thriving arts collective, which he fosters within his own St. Anthony Midway neighborhood in Saint Paul.

“The work I am doing in my neighborhood is a direct inspiration from the collaborative work I did as a Lanesboro Artist in Residence,” Pearson says.

Pearson was invited back to Lanesboro in 2005 to create a 56-foot-long, 12-foot-high mural — his first — on a safety wall surrounding the construction area of the Commonweal Theatre. For the design and content, community members were asked what art means to them and where they find art in their life.

Pearson then created an outline of the mural and community members painted the colors, allowing residents to bring their ideas and vision to life. The design process was for seven design panels that worked independently as well as one cohesive unit. Those seven mural panels are currently installed on the walls of the Intermission Restaurant in Lanesboro.

Pearson reflects, “Lanesboro definitely reminded me of what was possible when I can dedicate time to art and Lanesboro gave me confidence to apply for additional projects and do work even if I don’t get funding, because I have to do it to get my work out and I love doing it. When I am done, I feel fulfilled as an artist and a person.”

Just as Pearson is inspired by words of community members, he is also inspired by lyrics. Pearson works in a multiple-medium approach. For example, he is currently in a band which rehearses at his “Shipwrecked Studio” for inspiration. He finds himself singing lyrics that describe one of his paintings or making a sculpture inspired by his own words.

Pearson also looks for ways to present his work in new, creative ways. He is part of the Made Here program which highlights themes of community, nature, artistic medium, and social justice. This makes art accessible to all classes and types of people –hundreds of people are impacted by the work who perhaps wouldn’t go to a gallery.

Pearson shares with excitement, “I love seeing people waiting at a bus stop with an art gallery right behind them. When art is everywhere, it changes the meaning and feeling of the downtown area and makes people explore more.”

His work continues to positively impact the community of Lanesboro. Now, Pearson has designed and painted a nautical-themed mural on a car that was installed in the Poetry Parking lot from the summer of 2016 to the spring of 2017, temporarily making that space come alive. 

Pearson is a place-making artist, changing the face of traditional spaces and helping them become vibrant realities. Because of Pearson’s experience using art to develop and enrich the Lanesboro community, Pearson became an active member in his own city, radiating innovation in a mixed-use neighborhoods sustaining creativity.

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