Unity Mural: Using art to unite cops and kids

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - "Art means to me what you want and how you see the world, or how you see people," says Sophie Rishling, a student at Fargo North High School.

For Sophie, her art tells her history.

"I did my concentration on my people – as in, Native Americans. I did their myths and legends," she says.

But her latest work connects her to the present and her future. She's one of a handful of students working alongside Miami based artist Alex Lopez on a Unity Mural outside of the Fargo Police Department's substation on 25th Street South.

"I got to be part of a meeting with Officer Bloom this spring as we were planning out this project and I had offered my students to come over and both be assistants and mentors to some of the younger children that might be coming," says Tracy Melendez, the art teacher at Fargo North High School. "Most of them were extremely excited about it. They love the idea of being able to use their skills in a beneficial way."

"I think for us, we have a platform. So what we try to do is go out and collaborate with kids, learn about their gifts, and then platform them with their gifts and talents and abilities," Michael Bloom, a Community Trust Officer with the Fargo Police Department, says. "This mural now has become their own."

Bloom says the mural represents the relationship between police officers and the young people they serve.

"I just think art is powerful. Art speaks. This art is really meant to be a piece that's going to say, 'We believe in you. We care about you. And we want you in our building,'" he says. "Now they can believe that they can actually do it. Not only that, they'll know that law enforcement will partner with them."

"I think it's actually pretty cool that Officer Bloom actually put all of this into this and made us into a big community just to support everyone," Sophie adds.

So while to some, it may just look like street art, to Bloom - the Unity Mural looks like progress. And for Sophie - the opportunity to use her talents to connect with her community now and into the future means even more.

"I see it as a big accomplishment. Even though it's something little – just by painting a wall blue," she says.

Work on the mural is expected to wrap up this Wednesday. It was made possible thanks to a grant.

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