Artist Statement

My name is Mina Leierwood.
I am an artist and activist, and I have been working for peace and justice for over twenty years. My parents are Quakers and my grandparents are Jewish Socialists who spent over 75 years on the pacifist path. I am an art teacher, mother, wife and devoted community member.

The Art of Peace is art that engages friends and enemies in dialogue. The communion that the art creates and the conversation it sparks are far more important than the object itself. This is why I build public peace shrines and art cars. For example, the 4 foot by 4 foot peace shrine in the foyer of St. Stephen’s church adjacent to the sanctuary was a collaboration between the St. Stephen’s Dismantling Racism Committee and myself. We discussed which heroes should be included for several months, and ended up choosing leaders known nationally and internationally as civil rights leaders, spiritual leaders, and pacifists. We also chose local heroes, honoring people who have fought the same struggle here in Minnesota. The most important aspect of the shrine is the mirror in which we can see ourselves, showing that each one of us is the most important element in dismantling racism in everyday life. My artwork reaches out into the world to make a difference.

I have been practicing environmental art since I was a student at the University of Minnesota, 1986-1989. The campus straddles the ancient and marvelous Mississippi River. Environmental art involves being in a special place, allowing the environment to enter you, discerning what spirit or energy is there, utilizing found objects to create an image, circle, or visual prayer, and all of this done in meditation. This artwork might interact with strangers or friends, but more often, it is simply a communion with the divine. This is the most private aspect of my artwork, even though it is done outdoors, in the middle of our busy metropolis. The Mississippi is still a wild river, with fox, owl, crow, beaver and fish sharing our cityscape. When I stand beneath the bridges, with the crazy human world racing by above my head, and the ancient, magical world of creation running quietly by my feet, I experience awe, conflict, and regeneration,
the same transformational energies which I harness to birth my art.

I am known primarily as an art car artist. Art cars bring art to the people, everywhere. Gas stations, street corners, traffic jams are all places that I meet strangers because of my cars, which I have been building and driving since 1996. Some cars are thematic, like the Frida Karlo car, a tribute to Frida Kahlo, it was a collaboration with BJ Zander and El Colegio Charter School.
Other vehicles set the imagination on fire, like the Spider Van, created with middle school students; or my current ride, the Hippogriff, which is not just a car, but a magical monster, with wings, horns and hair. Art cars ask the viewer to think outside the box. It is a joyful task, driving an art car, sparkling, twinkling and surprising people, especially children, every day.

My art connects me to others. I focus on creating an interaction with strangers – around art. Art is meaningless to me without message and conversation. I am not a gallery artist. You will find my art in the streets.

My favorite word is ‘Transformation’ and I use all I have to transform this culture from a culture of war and annihilation, to a culture of peace and sustainability. I work with a variety of materials such as wood, metal, mirror and paint; but my real talent is bringing the multifaceted skills of other artists, teachers, students, and activists together. I consider it my job as a teacher to be an example; to practice peace, unity and cooperation in my daily life. I consider it my job as an artist to create innovative ways to communicate with others, that we may learn from each other, and transform our world, one interaction at a time.