Shuttered Lake Street Store Becomes ‘Elsas House Of Art In Honor Of Immigrant Entrepreneur

Shuttered Lake Street Store Becomes ‘Elsas House Of Art In Honor Of Immigrant Entrepreneur

Elsa's gentle spirit is reflected in a new public art installation outside the closed sleepwear boutique Elsa's House on Lake Street in Minneapolis. The project, called Dream Sequence, was inspired by Rezene, an Eritrean artist, tailor and business owner before he died of cancer in 2004.

"He was always optimistic," said Tetra Constantino, Resnis' son. Hey, he has this constant attitude that no matter what, he can make it work.

The project was designed and hosted by retired Projection Public Art founder Jack Baker, with technical support and project management by Christa Pearson. It was organized by a group of environmental volunteers called 36th Avenue Revitalization and Transformation (ART).

Rezenes love to make beautiful things. After moving to America from Eritrea in 1966, Razeen began her career as a tailor and also made jewelry. According to Constantino, Rezene carefully selected materials such as buffalo horn and bronze beads.

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By 1971, she was running a storefront called Ethiopia Exquisite, which sold jewelry, handmade clothing, incense and oils. It's not easy. Rezin and her husband, Gillon Constantino, were subjected to racist insults and threats. A 1973 Minneapolis Star article reported that a white man entered a store on Hennepin Street named Constantino "N" and the shop was shot twice. The couple's other store on Lake Street was written off.

However, Razin was determined to save money so he could sponsor the rest of the family to join the United States.

"She was six months pregnant with my brother and came back with her five siblings and mother," said Constantino, who now runs Elsa's hostel on University Street in St. Louis. Louis.

Growing up, Constantinia remembers traveling to the many festivals in the neighborhood selling her wares like incense. In 1997 he opened a new furniture store on Nelling Street, selling mattresses, rugs, artwork and lamps.

While still in college, Konstantinos remembers making products at his brother's business. "I was attracted without knowing it," he recalls. "Hey you know we need you to come and do this or that" I said. "I love doing it." After graduating, he was in business with his mother for three months, which turned into years. brother, sister and wife work in the company at different times.

The business moved to University Avenue in 2002 and opened a second location on Lake Street in 2012. “The goal of this store was to reconnect with the neighborhood my mother loved,” says Constantino. His first shop was on Lake Street.

The building lay vacant until the family bought it and renovated it. In 2019, they decided to renovate the building. They closed the store and started using it as a warehouse while planning to renovate their store in St. Louis. Petersburg.

Then there was the chaos of 2020. The pandemic and civil unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd delayed plans to reopen the building.

Amid the chaos, Constantino remained in his store on University Avenue, locking it for a week after smashing windows and shutting down phone lines. They are also holding operations only by appointment due to the pandemic and online sales. Then, in October 2020, vandals set fire to the back of the Lake Street building. "That set us back because it wasn't really in our calculations," said Constantino.

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Constantino says the business plans to open on Lake Street in the summer of 2023. Like St. Louis, Paul, also sells home goods and showcases local arts and crafts.

At the same time, Jack Baker approaches him about being part of the 36th Arts District's revitalization efforts.

I'm so glad Constantine came. "He really put this together." Constantino is very happy to have artist Ta-Kumba Aiken. "Ta-Kumba and my mother were friends," he said. Constantino still has a photo of his mother from Aiken in the 70s.

For the project, Aiken created a 52-foot mural that was hung on the north-facing wall and then turned onto the west-facing wall. Aiken's bold and flowing lines, with a colorful banner behind them, place the piece in an elegant building in south Minneapolis.

Also on the west wall is a series of paintings by Gordon Koons, Man Moves to the Healer (2018), which depicts the figure of a maqua, or Ojibwe bear. On the east wall, Ron Brown's Afro-Future digital portrait glows with energy and a powerful black face.

In the project, Havona Sullivan's work combines archival images, bird drawings, and symbolic textures. Jordan m. Other works by Hamilton, Christopher Harrison, Katrina Knutson and Zara SM will transform the wood covering of the building into a living outdoor gallery.

The project also included a photo of Resené and a quote from Resené in a note her daughter remembered: "It's never too late to start dreaming."

According to the press release, the outdoor exhibition will be open until April 20, 2023. The celebration is planned for the end of January, TBA date and time. Today, you can see the parade on 36th Street and East Lake Street in Minneapolis.

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