"Never in a hundred years would I have thought I'd be going to Angola, Africa to paint a mural," says Anna Lassonde, a Detroit Lakes artist. "But here I am, and I just think it's awesome."
Lassonde, who has never been to Africa before, will be going in mid-October with a group of 10 people through the Lakes Area Vineyard Church. They'll be staying for almost three weeks to do missionary work.
Lassonde's mission is to paint a large mural, in the African Tinga Tinga art style, along an exterior wall at a women's clinic in the Angolan city of Lubango. The clinic provides surgeries for the local women there, as well as helpful programs and services like employment training.
"I'm working on the design now," Lassonde says of the mural. "The theme is the Gospel story, the hope that we have in Jesus."
She won't be doing it alone. A handful of other artists are going on the trip, too, and they'll be helping with some of the later-stage design and painting of the mural.
The mural will resemble an open storybook, Lassonde says, with pages flowing across the clinic wall, reading from left to right. Each artist will be focusing on one "page," or portion, of the mural, with those pages collectively telling the story of salvation.
"Art tells a story," Lassonde says. "And I just love that, that we can tell a story just through pictures."
Lassonde has been doing research into the Tinga Tinga art style to make the mural relatable to the local culture in Angola. She describes the style as "really fun - bold colors, very simple subjects... almost cartoonish, but not quite. It's just really fun to look at."
She's been experimenting with the style for months now, and has some of her Tinga Tinga paintings on display in the foyer of her church, Community Alliance Church in Detroit Lakes.
She's also been leading some make-and-take painting classes around the area, helping participants create their own Tinga Tinga paintings to take home. Proceeds from these "Painting With a Purpose" classes are being used to help fund the missions trip to Angola. She's already held classes at various locations around the region, and more are coming up.
Lassonde, who grew up in communities in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, came to live in the Detroit Lakes area with her husband, Fred, because they wanted to settle down in the country. They have two children, Aviana, age 9, and Silas, age 5.
Lassonde runs an art studio, called Jollybird Studio, part-time out of their home. She also works at Ecumen in Detroit Lakes, providing activities for the residents, including art classes.
An artist since she was a child, Lassonde primarily works in acrylics but also enjoys watercolors, collage and photography. She does some commission art, usually focused on animal portraits. The African mural will be her first mural.
She currently has artwork on display at Ecumen, as well as at Ella Marie's Cafe and Collectibles in Lake Park.
"Ever since I was a child I was always drawing, creating and writing," she says. "It's something that I just love to do. I have a huge passion for it. And I love teaching people; I love sharing that."
Lassonde believes the missions trip to Angola "was a God thing" and it's meant to be. She'd been wanting to travel to Angola for the past year, she explains - ever since a good friend of hers moved over there to do some medical missionary work. Her friend is a nurse practitioner at a clinic in Lubango, the same city where Lassonde will be painting the mural.
"I've wanted to go over and see her," Lassonde says, "but I wasn't sure how I would manage a trip. I didn't really know anybody else who wanted to go to Africa."
Through friends of hers that attend the Vineyard Church, however, she found out about the group going to Angola, and decided to take the plunge and go along. She was prepared to do any kind of missionary work at all, but after learning about the opportunity to do the mural, she was immediately on board with that. She learned that other missionaries in her group were artists, too, and the pieces just fell into place.
"Every step I'm taking has been working out, and there's been a lot of support and prayer into it," she says. "I prayed about this opportunity before jumping at it, and I noticed doors opening to clear the way for me to do it. I'm very excited to do this."
Offering "Painting With a Purpose" classes seemed like a fitting way to raise funds for the trip (she's putting proceeds toward both her own travel expenses as well as those of other group members). The next class will be offered at The Vineyard Church around the end of July or beginning of August.
The final class date, as well as other information, will be posted on the Jollybird Studio Facebook page.
What is Tinga Tinga?
Tinga Tinga 20th century East African painting style. Its layered, saturated colors can be seen in tourist-oriented paintings -- small enough to be carried. The style is named after its founder Tanzanian painter Edward Said Tingatinga.