UWRF alum directs street art project
November 1, 2023
When the city of River Falls reached out to the UW-River Falls Art Department to create a mural at the intersection of Main and Division streets, Moz Rude jumped at the chance. Rude graduated from UW-River Falls with a bachelor’s degree in art. Their degree, however, focused on ceramics, not painting. “I had never done a mural before,” Rude said.
Despite this, Rude loves to paint, and decided to take on the project. “Only the people who are closest to me know that I paint just as much as I make ceramics,” Rude said. “I was excited to pursue an endeavor in the other medium that I like…. [The mural] was an opportunity for me to learn and grow, and also to engage in the community.”
The city contacted Hannah Freeman, an Assistant Art Professor at UW-River Falls, who then reached out to several former students, including Rude. “I was honored that she even thought of me for a project so big,” Rude said.
To create their submission for the mural, Rude researched local wildflowers, and decided to focus on the Jacob’s Ladder wildflower. “This city and area are known for their natural beauty, and I wanted to represent that in this project,” Rude said.
Two days after Rude submitted the design, it was accepted. “The city reached out and said, ‘We really like your design. We’d be happy to commission you,’” Rude said. Rude met with Ellen Massey, the management analyst for the River Falls Community Development Department, to further plan the project. “It was really collaborative,” Rude said of the process.
The mural is the focus of River Falls’ “Paint the Pavement Project,” which was created to address safety concerns with the Main and Division Street intersection. In particular, visibility was a concern, as drivers would sometimes fail to see pedestrians or cyclists in the intersection.
The city installed plastic barriers to improve visibility, but, rather than applying standard pavement markings as well, they decided to implement a more artistic alternative.
Thus, the mural was born.
“I know this is a busy intersection, and it feels good to be a part of making this space not only more safe, but more beautiful too,” Rude said. The project is part of the City’s Bike and Pedestrian Plan, and was funded by a $10,000 AARP Community Challenge Grant.
On August 23, 2023, Rude, volunteer artists, city workers, UWRF employees, and community members, started on the mural. They endured temperatures of almost 100 degrees, and an even higher heat index, as they worked.
“We weren't able to finish it in one day because everyone was on the brink of heat stroke,” Rude said. “We had to call it early the first day, and it had to be finished the next week.”
Ellen Massey said, “City officials are interested in placemaking projects like this that benefit River Falls.” She said that River Falls may include public art in future projects.
After graduating from UWRF in May 2023, Rude works as a teaching artist at Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, MN, and a ceramic instructor at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, WI. Their website, mozrude.com, describes Rude’s artistic process.
“My creative process [with ceramics] is very fluid. I enjoy both hand-building and wheel throwing, but tend to lean towards pinching, coils, and slabs more… I’m just following my intuition and allowing my hands to do what feels natural for them to do.”
A major source of inspiration for Rude’s work is “the actual subject matter of life,” they said. “I pull a lot of my inspiration from my emotions and just being very present. Like what I saw that day; I’ll just catalog it on the surface of a pot.”
Rude mentioned Michael Helke, an Assistant Professor of Art at UWRF and the Ceramics Program Director, as a major influence for them.
“[Michael] was a big advocate for us students,” Rude said. Rude said that it is crucial for artists to connect with their local art communities if they want to succeed. “[Michael] already had all of those connections… and he was super happy to let us know about opportunities.”
At Northern Clay Center, Rude teaches ceramics classes for all ages. They are also involved in Northern Clay Center’s outreach program, which provides instruction and materials to schools, community centers, and other locations in the Minneapolis area.
“It's centered on community engagement,” Rude said, “We send teaching artists to their location, and they teach a class at that site.” Rude works as a technician to support this process.
Rude is planning to teach an abstract sculpture class in early 2024; “I’m slowly working my way up to teaching more advanced students, not just beginners,” they said. Rude’s long-term goal is to get their master’s degree in ceramics and become a professor at the university level.
For now, though, Rude is already busy. “I have four jobs,” they said. “It’s a little insane.” Rude and their work can be found online at www.mozrude.com, or on Instagram, @mozpots.