Announcing the 2020 Upper St Anthony Falls Lock projection artists

Sarah Peters

Artists Moira Villiard (left) and Jonathan Thunder (right). Photo description: Two black and white photographs with portraits of a person smiling.


We are excited to announce a lead and mentor artist for a winter illumination at the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock. 

Moira Villiard, lead artist, is a self-taught, dynamic visual artist, Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe direct descendent, and current Minnesota-based community organizer.  Though early in her career, her proficiency is in a wide variety of artistic genres, including portraiture, illustration, graphic and digital design and as a muralist. She’s worked as a curator and passionate arts educator, concentrating her efforts around issues of equity and justice including: arts access for underrepresented voices and communities, creative placemaking, environmental sustainability, youth empowerment, and acknowledgement of Indigenous land, culture, and history.

She was broadly recognized in 2019, when she received the 2019 Duluth NAACP “Take a Stand for the Revolution” award, 2019 Emerging City Champions fellowship, Forecast Public Art 2019 Early-Career Project Grant, 2019 YWCA Women of Distinction award, and The Duluth News Tribune 20 under 40 award.

Her work has been featured in numerous shows in Duluth and around Minnesota, including her recent traveling solo show, “Rights of the Child”, and group shows “Beyond Borders” at MacRostie Arts Center and “We the People” at the Minnesota Museum of American Art. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communicating Arts (Global Studies Minor) from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 2016.

Of this opportunity, she says: 

“Art is a social process for me, so I’m most excited for the relational aspects of this project; things like working with Jonathan Thunder as my official mentor and engaging with community members around the creation of this piece and what they’d like to see. I’m also grateful to have the opportunity to explore this platform and medium in a way that elevates Indigenous perspectives.” 

Jonathan ThunderRed Lake Ojibwe, will serve as a mentor artist, bringing his knowledge of projection to the project, among other skills. Thunder is a multi-disciplinary artist who works in canvas painting, digital animation and illustration. Northern Spark 2019 attendees at the American Indian Cultural Corridor saw Thunder’s work Manifest’o projected large-scale onto the side of the Many Rivers East Building on Franklin Ave. 

He says,

“I’m excited to work in collaboration once again with Northern Lights, Native American Community Development Institute and artist Moira Villiard on this unique and colossal event. The Mississippi has been a big part of my life since I can remember, and the lock and dam at St. Anthony has always been a destination for me during times of meditation and deep thought.”


Join us in congratulating these artists! Stay tuned for more details on the project as it develops. 

This project is a partnership with All My Relations Arts, a program of Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI),  Mississippi Park Connection and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and is supported by the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board.