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Duluth artist's large-scale projection coming to a local wall

Moira Villiard's "Madweyaashkaa: Waves Can Be Heard" will screen at the Washington Rec Center from 9-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

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"Madweyaashkaa: Waves Can Be Heard" by Duluth artist Moira Villiard can be seen Thursday-Saturday nights on the wall by the playground at the Washington Rec Center in Duluth. (Photo courtesy of Nedahness Greene)
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A projection by a Duluth artist that loomed large on the lock at St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis earlier this year will play on a local wall later this week.

Moira Villiard’s “Madweyaashkaa: Waves Can Be Heard” is an 11-minute piece with animated takes on the artist’s colorful visuals set to a story of resilience and connection told by Dakota/Ojibwe First Nation Millie Richard with music by Lyz Jaakola and sound design by JayGee. It plays from 9-11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday on the wall near the playground at Washington Rec Center, 301 N. First Ave. W. It’s free and open to the public.

Villiard lives at Washington Studios and said she was looking for walls to support her piece. Ultimately, she didn’t have to look far.

“I came home and thought ‘This might be one of the bigger walls that are blank,’” she recalled.

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Villiard told the News Tribune in March that she gave both the storyteller Richard and Jaakola, a musician, a prompt. Then she went through the piece and added animation frame by frame — fish and loons, a grandmotherly moon, waves and fire. This marked the artist's debut in animation, and she is continuing to work in this medium.
“Madweyaashkaa: Waves Can Be Heard” was originally created as part of Minneapolis gallery All My Relations Arts’ series “Bring Her Home: Sacred Womxn of Resistance,” a partnership with Northern Lights.mn , Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and Mississippi Park Connection, with a grant from the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board.

File: Moira Villiard
Moira Villiard (2019 file / Clint Austin / News Tribune)

About 2,500 people visited the original exhibition in March, according to Northern Lights.mn. After it played in Minneapolis, there was a strong local call to see it in Duluth, including a tweet by Duluth Mayor Emily Larson.

Noah Hobbes has had an interest in filling blank spaces with projections since Duluth artist Daniel Benoit projected a giant chicken on the front of a Superior Street building during the 2018 Homegrown Music Festival, he said. A member of Duluth's Public Arts Commission, Hobbes became interested in Villiard's project after reading about it in a Twin Cities newspaper. He wanted to bring it home.

"I think public art is important," Hobbes said. "Everyone has access to it. It throws off the stuffiness of art in general. And in several trips to other cities, seeing what they've done with public art in Pittsburgh, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Mankato … Duluth could do a better job with it."

The exhibition was on the committee's June 6 agenda and announced soon after.

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Hobbes noted that Villiard's projection will be available during Grandma's Marathon weekend, an option for tourists and also Duluthians who are looking for things to do beyond the events in Canal Park and Bayfront Festival Park.

"That's a great way to highlight local artists," he said.

Villiard, too, wanted to show it to a home audience.

"My whole art career has started and flourished,” Villiard said Monday.

Villiard is behind multiple public art projects, including collaborative sessions in crosswalks and portraits of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd that were created last summer at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. She is leading the ongoing Chief Buffalo Memorial Park Project at Gitchi-Ode’ Akiing. Villiard said she is planning more public painting sessions in August.

She recently created larger-than-life murals, including one of owner Stephan Witherspoon's mother, on the walls at the new Doc Witherspoon’s Soul Food Shack on West First Street.

Villiard said she also has her eyes on a collaboration with Carla Hamilton that speaks to the mental health system.

Related Topics: ARTDULUTH
I am a 20-plus year employee of the Duluth News Tribune, first as a sports reporter, briefly as a copy editor and now as a features reporter with an emphasis on arts, entertainment and oddities. I enjoy trail running, paddle boarding, reading, yoga, cooking and things that are hilarious. I live in, and celebrate, West Duluth with my elementary school aged daughter, my longtime partner, and two pandemic pets. I can be reached at (218) 279-5536 or clawler@duluthnews.com
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