Posing for a photo with artist Paul Johnson are Pelican an Rapids Viking Elementary students, as they explore creative avenues in preparing a main street art mural for downtown Pelican.
The large square displays the location of the mural planned for downtown Pelican Rapids, created with an arts grant and a collaboration between the city, school, students and artist Paul Johnson.
Showing examples of art and mural projects on the screen is Paul Johnson. He is acting as something of an “Artist in Residence” at the Pelican elementary school—where he also attended, and graduated from Pelican High School.
Students inspect examples of mural art, displayed by Paul Johnson—well known as the creator of the Concordia College Christmas Concert murals.

Local artist Paul Johnson launches creative process for downtown mural

A new artistic mural for downtown Pelican Rapids started in Viking Elementary classrooms last week. 

The collaboration between young art students, an area arist, the city and the school district, the project is supported by a Legacy Grant from the Lake Region Arts Council. 

Artist Paul Johnson came to the Viking Elementary art room to present to 6th graders about murals he has created throughout the United States. Johnson, a Pelican native and graduate himself, is perhaps best known as the creator of the Concordia College Christmas concert murals.

He spoke about where his inspiration comes from and how often it is found in nature. What starts by finding a beautiful leaf in the woods or ice washed ashore Lake Superior, he sketched and photographed them as inspiration. Later these inspirations would result in beautiful paintings, drawings, or digital pieces of art. 

He also discussed the importance of using a cell phone to capture great moments and ideas but equally how important it is to put down the phones so we do not miss life’s greatest moments. 

Paul had examples of his first artwork from when he attended Viking Elementary and Pelican Rapids High School and said it was his teachers who encouraged him to keep working for his dream to become an artist. He is grateful for his art foundation, developed here in Pelican. 

Sixth graders really loved knowing he still lives in Pelican Rapids and that he also was in some of the same classrooms as the kids today.

Students were amazed by his more recent paintings, digital art, photography, and drawings. He also passed around many different sketches he created, many of which eventually turned into large murals. 

“We are so lucky to have such a talented and passionate artist here in Pelican Rapids and he is already making a great impact on our students. His excitement for mural making is contagious and we were all blown away by his work,” said Viking school art teacher Kate Woolever-Martinez, who is spearheading the mural project. 

Now that students have a better understanding of the mural making process and have seen examples of Johnson’s work, they will dive into more specific topics about our local plants, animals and community for the mural in downtown Pelican Rapids. 

Over the next few months students will be creating designs they feel represent our local nature, parks, and community. Paul will be working with students throughout the process. Once student designs are complete they will be sent back to Paul where he will combine them digitally into one large mural. 

The downtown location is on a large, south-facing space above the Mercantile on Main parking lot.