Leslie Barlow and Hibaaq Ibrahim Debut Mural for Cedar Cultural Center

Photo by Tanya Gravening.

Minneapolis-based artists Leslie Barlow and Hibaaq Ibrahim recently collaborated on a mural to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Cedar Cultural Center, in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. Spanning the perimeter of Cedar Plaza, the mural features musicians, colorful botanicals, and starry skies.

Both Barlow and Ibrahim have independently created multiple murals across the Twin Cities Metro, from arts organizations to bookstores to health clinics. “We’ve talked for years about leading on a mural project together and we finally get to do that here,” Barlow said in an email. “We were hoping to create something vibrant and representative of the community,” Ibrahim wrote. “We want this mural to be a recognizable part of Cedar Riverside like so many other murals have become for various neighborhoods in MPLS.”

Barlow grew up in South Minneapolis and spent much of her young adulthood in Cedar Riverside, visiting the Cedar Cultural Center and spending time in surrounding restaurants and local businesses. “It’s an important and beautiful thing to give back to a place that has been meaningful to your upbringing and life, and I see making public art as a part of that,” Barlow stated. Ibrahim explained that she’s drawn to the full body experience of murals – how they require the viewer to move around and get up close to pick out details. “That feels magical to me,” she said. “I always wanted to live inside the books I read as a child, and painting murals feels like a version of that!”

The large scale of the Cedar Cultural Center’s mural also speaks to what attracts Barlow to murals as an art form. “I love the challenge of scale with a large outdoor mural like this one, because it becomes a full-body and fully present experience with the work and the environment that you are painting in. A mural can become a beloved and important visual anchor in a neighborhood, and the potential of that is interesting to me as well.”

The mural’s creation included a Community Paint Day, during which community members and residents were invited to contribute to the project and leave their own mark on the Cedar’s walls. Ibrahim and Barlow ensured there was a way for people of all ages and levels of experience to participate. “It was a joy to see people not just admiring the mural, but actively participating in its creation,” said Ibrahim. “I hope that every time people pass by the Cedar, they remember the part they painted!”

Barlow and Ibrahim shared more about the project in a brief interview with the Cedar Cultural Center.  

The completed mural was commemorated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 27.