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Making its return to the Raymond-University neighborhood of St. Paul, the Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will kick off this weekend, with additional events happening next month and later this year.

The event is produced and located within the Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ), which is a city-recognized district of St. Paul and nonprofit organization dedicated to "enhancing public spaces and art to advance creative, cultural and economic development through clustering, collaboration and connectivity."

The festival is free and open to the public, starting Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a family-friendly "Open Street" event at the intersection of Bradford and Endicott streets, near Deneen Pottery, Urban Growler Brewing Company and Bang Brewing. 

Launch events will include live painting, bike and bus tours, live music, food trucks, craft beer, hands-on activities and more.

"We are excited to be adding more murals along University Avenue this year," said CEZ Executive Director Angela Casselton. "We have a dynamic group of artists, great community partners, and a growing residential neighborhood."

Casselton added that CEZ will be hosting tours at the new mural site locations. 

Activities for Chroma Zone will extend throughout the year, happening in May, June and late September. Sixteen local and national muralists have been selected to paint 11 walls throughout the warmer months. 

One of those artists, Thomasina Topbear, told Bring Me The News she started getting into art when she was a teenager.

"It started with graffiti art and traveling, and once I was traveling a bit I met some women from Few and Far Women in San Antonio. We automatically clicked and started painting together and now I am a board member [for the organization]," she said.

Few and Far Women is described as "an assemblage of women who beautify the streets," according to the organization's website. The international all-female street art crew have a "shared commitment to creativity, education and social justice" by drawing, painting, skateboarding and teaching all over the world.

Topbear has been a board member for the organization since 2015. The self-taught Santee Dakota and Oglala Lakota muralist also was a co-founder of City Mischief Murals, which is "an all BIPOC mural collective that actively paints large scale community-based murals in the Twin Cities," according to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Topbear will be helping out for the second consecutive Chroma Zone event this year.

"For this event we will bringing some of our members [of Few and Far Women] to paint as a collaborative design," she said, adding that will take place in June.

From June 22-26, the event will welcome five members from the national all-women street art collective for a five-day mural meet. It's set to take place at the Security Building, located near the Raymond-University retail district in St. Paul. Besides Topbear, other artists include Deity, Meme, Keena Azania Roman, Martzia Thometz and guest artist Simone Alexa.

"What we like to do with a lot of our murals is empowering young women, or those who identify as females or women, and so we're inviting [Alexa] to paint with us, get to know us, and share space with Simone," Topbear explained.

Topbear has artwork currently showing in two locations within the Twin Cities. One of them, titled Protect Our Sisters, was completed through the city Mischief Mural Collective in 2020. It's located at Center School in the Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis. The other piece is located in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, individually done by Topbear. It's called No More Stolen Sisters.

Chuck Parsons, the General Manager of the Hampden Park Co-op, had a mural painted on his business the first year Chroma Zone started in 2019. He tells Bring Me The News he's a big fan of the sense of community it brings when these murals are displayed.

"We're in an industrial area, so I think the beautification of the old industrial buildings... create a postcard-like effect, bringing people together to stop and take photos," he said. The mural created in 2019 was done by visual artist Cey Adams, who is from New York. 

Parsons also says the murals created are a deterrent to graffiti.

"We're getting a mural this summer that as of right now has graffiti on the area [of the building]," Parsons said, adding, "I think overall community-wise, it's a really cool thing." The Hampden Park location became a legal cooperative in 1993, according to the business's website. Parsons says it's the smallest co-op in St. Paul. 

The 2022 Chroma Zone event will feature the following artists, along with the respective months they will be working on their pieces:

For more information on the events, visit Chroma Zone's website.

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