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Minnesota girl earns public art designation for sidewalk rainbow

After receiving notification about “blight,” Calliope Hoalcraft took her project to the city commission

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Fourth grader Calliope Hoalcraft shows off her rainbow sidewalk Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, at her north Moorhead home. The art has been officially designated a public art project.
Michael Vosburg / The Forum
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What started as a sweet sidewalk painting has now become an official public art project gracing one Moorhead, Minnesota, neighborhood.

Last fall, Calliope Hoalcraft showed off her love of rainbows by painting 9 squares on the sidewalk in front of her Moorhead home in rainbow colors. Over the winter, the art was obscured by snow even after the sidewalk was shoveled or snowblowed, but once spring rolled around, it became visible again.

Except not everyone liked what they saw.

In early May, the Hoalcrafts received a letter from the city notifying them that the use of paint on sidewalks was a “blighting problem” and code violation. The letter stipulated the paint should be removed if they did not want to incur a fine.

“The word that stood out to me was blight – a child’s art project is not blight,” said Calliope’s mom, Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft, who also works for Forum Communications. “I have a friend who is active in city politics, so I sent her a picture of the project and letter and said, ‘Art projects are blight now?’ She was pretty fired up about it and put me in touch with the city manager about what we could do.”

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The family learned they could apply to have Calliope’s project designated as public art, which involved paperwork detailing the purpose of the art and the artist herself. “Some questions I didn’t know to answer because she’s only 8, like her completed education," Alicia said. "She finished third grade and is now going into fourth.”

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Calliope Hoalcraft stops to pose for a picture outside of Moorhead City Hall before dropping off her application for a public art project.
Photo courtesy of Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft / Special to On the Minds of Moms

Once the paperwork was complete, Calliope dropped it off at city hall to be reviewed and then sent to the Art & Culture Commission. During the meeting , two members shared that they had talked with Calliope’s family about the permanence of the project and the neighborhood support for the project.

“I would just really applaud the applicant and her family,” said Art & Culture Commission member Jonathan Rutter. “It’s critical that our citizens take an active role in championing art in our neighborhood and city, so well done.”

Although Calliope decided not to speak during the meeting, her mom shared that Calliope “wanted to show love and support for her community and do something to make people happy.”

Member Nathaniel Dickey applauded Calliope’s proposal and mentioned the letters of support her project received, including one from former mayor Del Rae Williams. The project passed unanimously and was sent along to the city council, which also passed the project unanimously and very excitedly . Members again praised Calliope for her civic engagement and support of public art.

Following the meeting, Calliope received a personal note of congratulations from a council member, which she really liked.

“I feel happy when I see a rainbow,” Calliope shared.

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Calliope Hoalcraft shows off the rainbow sidewalk she and her family originally painted in the fall of 2021, which has since earned public art designation and has been re-done.
Photo courtesy of Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft / Special to On the Minds of Moms

Once the necessary approvals were received and the right kind of materials were purchased, Calliope and her family set up creating a new version of her initial rainbow, which was completed at the beginning of August in their north Moorhead neighborhood.

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Calliope’s public art can be seen in front of their house near the intersection of 18th Street and 8th Avenue North.

Her mom is happy that Calliope saw the project through the entire process and focused on the outcome.

“I’m really proud of how Callie handled this whole thing,” Alicia shared. “She stayed focused on her rainbow and doing what she could to keep it. She has the world’s biggest, kindest heart and I’m excited to watch her grow up. She’s going to be a world changer.”

Danielle Teigen has a bachelor's degree in journalism and management communication as well as a master's degree in mass communication from North Dakota State University. She has worked for Forum Communications since May 2015, first as a digital content manager before becoming the Life section editor and then deputy editor. She recently moved back to her hometown in South Dakota, where she works remotely for Forum Communications as managing editor of On the Minds of Moms.
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