Recent Edina High School graduate Shreya Konkimalla knew she wanted to be on Edina’s Arts and Culture Commission since she heard about it freshman year. Although there are numerous commissions relating to different aspects of the Edina community, Konkimalla says she was drawn to the Arts and Culture Commission due to her love of art.
“I’m not really involved in standard art forms like visual art,” Konkimalla says, “but I do participate in a lot of activities relating to music and I love writing. So, I thought being a part of the Arts and Culture Commission would be an interesting place because it aligned with a lot of the interests that I already had.”
During her three years on the commission after joining as a sophomore, Konkimalla says that most projects she was involved in had to do with public art in Edina and expanding the definition of what that can mean. “It’s been a long-term goal for us to make sure that we have a very broad definition of public art, which includes things like the performative arts and spoken word,” Konkimalla says.
In service of this goal, the commission created a three-year plan for public art in Edina. Part of the plan includes a yearly public art event or project for the community, but 2020 posed a unique problem. “What became really hard was after we developed our plan, when the pandemic hit, and we didn’t get to meet in person and we didn’t have meetings for a few months,” Konkimalla says.
Although COVID posed a daunting obstacle, the commission still wanted to get something done. To this end, Konkimalla says she and a few other commissioners developed and proposed the idea of creating a virtual gallery. This way, community members could still contribute to an event and the commission could fulfill its goal to engage with public art in Edina safely during the pandemic.
The idea for an online gallery grew into one of the 2021 initiatives for the commission, which Konkimalla co-chairs with commissioner Lindsay DiLorenzo. “Basically, the idea of the gallery was to provide a space for community members to submit art pieces,” Konkimalla says. “We wanted it to center around a theme, and the theme that we thought of was, ‘From Struggling to Healing,’ because it was a very contentious time when we were thinking about the gallery.”
The idea for the gallery first started to become conceptualized during May and June of 2020, a time of local and international upheaval. “It was following George Floyd’s murder, it was when a bunch of people were struggling with a pandemic, and we wanted to provide this platform for community members to essentially share their story from struggling to healing or their process to healing with art,” Konkimalla says.
The commission also wanted to highlight the diversity of the Edina community, which gave Konkimalla the idea to bring in another Edina organization to the project, Edina High School’s student-led Mosaic club.
“The reason that we’re doing it with Mosaic is the goal of diversity and inclusion within the gallery,” Konkimalla says. As a member of Mosaic since her sophomore year, Konkimalla knows these goals firsthand. Mosaic is a club that focuses on inclusion and equity in the EHS community.
As part of their club activities, Mosaic hosts yearly cultural events, including a story slam that—similarly to the virtual gallery—opens the floor to community members to share their stories, experiences and identity.
“The objective of this joint partnership between the Arts and Culture Commission and Mosaic is to celebrate all voices and all perspectives through a wide definition of the arts,” says DiLorenzo. “Creating space for an open and honest dialogue about experiences, challenges, backgrounds and history is crucial in building and strengthening a cohesive community.”
In line with these values of inclusivity, the gallery is open not only to a broad range of mediums but a broad definition of community. Konkimalla explains that anyone who has or had a connection to Edina or has been an Edina resident can contribute to the gallery, which is accepting submissions ranging from traditional visual arts to performance-based art forms such as theater, spoken word, dance and more.
“As we are working hard to broaden the definition of traditional art, we were so encouraged that our first featured pieces in the gallery included performance, painting and writing,” says DiLorenzo. “All of these mediums—and many more—give us all the chance to understand how our neighbors, friends and community members at large have experienced struggle and healing over the past year.”
Submissions to the virtual gallery have been open since February 5th, 2021 and will continue to be open until December 31st, 2021. To learn more about the submission process or to explore the experiences already shared by other members of the Edina community, go to bettertogetheredina.org/virtualartgallery.