Art project provides an uplifting outlet for a grieving community

By 
Jamie Ausk Crisafulli
Sunday, July 5, 2020
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Classmates and friends of Justice Hagen, who died in a motor vehicle accident last week, stand in front of Justice’s Art Alley in downtown Glendive. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Crisafulli

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Members of Justice’s family work on their contributions to the art alley project on Saturday. Submitted photo

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Justice Hagen, left, pictured with her sister Paige in front of Art Alley in Rapid City, S.D. Submitted photo

A new art wall popped up in downtown Glendive over the weekend and the bright colors and fun designs are providing joy and healing in a dark time for many in the community.

The colorful grafiti-inspired art is the work of many hands and is meant to honor the memory of a young woman who recently lost her life.

Justice’s Art Alley is located directly off the 100 block of West Valentine Street behind the former Lulhaven building.

Justice Hagen, a 2020 Dawson County High School graduate, died in a motor vehicle accident on June 25. Colorful renderings of her name began to appear on the wall on June 27 at the encouragement of her parents and owners of the building, Darren and Angie Hagen.

After visiting Art Alley in Rapid City, S.D., a project of the Rapid City Arts Council, Angie came up with the idea to start something similar in Glendive a few years ago. She even proposed the idea to a local group but the idea stalled out and Angie took on other community projects.

“I always loved the Art Alley in Rapid City and I have been wanting to start an art alley in Glendive for many years,” Angie posted on her facebook page on Friday, June 26.

The Hagens decided to start “Justice’s Art Alley” behind the former Lulhaven building, which the Hagens purchased last year. Angie’s Edward Jones business is in the front half of the building, and the back portion remains empty.

The Hagens asked that Justice’s friends and family paint Justice’s name on the wall, decorating in any way they chose.

“Her name was just as amazing as she was and she would have loved everything about this,” Angie wrote.

Friends and family responded to the call, and with paint cans and ladders in tow, dozens of people left their mark in honor of Justice on the wall and, in turn, created a bright piece of art for the entire community to enjoy.

Among the dozens of amateur artists were members of the Schock family, who are long-time friends of the Hagens.

“My first thought was ‘Wow, my amazing friend is thinking of others at a very difficult time,” Lesa Schock said of Angie’s call for action among Justice’s friends and families.

An art-lover at heart, Lesa said she feels art can be very therapeutic and was happy to share the outlet with her family, which includes four teenage daughters who have known Justice all of their lives.

“I love how it brought Justice’s family and friends together,” 17-year-old Sydney Schock said. “I love art and Justice and I’m happy I could use my passion to celebrate her.”

Shawnelle Wade, owner of Kiddie College where Justice worked for about two years, also felt the art wall was the perfect place for her staff and children of the preschool and daycare to celebrate Justice’s life.

“I thought it was a great idea and a very positive outlet for those who were grieving the loss of such an uplifting soul,” she said Thursday.

Kiddie College workers, including all of the teachers who worked with Justice in the past, took several daycare children to the art wall this week where they left their painted handprints.

On Tuesday, local photographer Chelsea Crisafulli took photos of a group of Justice’s friends as they held pictures of the friend they lost. Justice’s Art Wall provided the perfect backdrop.

“Justice booked her senior package with two sessions, specifically so she could use one of them with her friends. It is obvious how much her friends meant to her,” Crisafulli said in a facebook post Wednesday. “She touched so many people, in different stages of her life.”

The art project accomplished the goals set by the Hagens: It brought family and friends together to honor their daughter and created community art that will be enjoyed, and likely added to, for years to come.

“I think it turned out perfect. I love all the different colors, Justice would have loved it!” Sydney said.

Reach Jamie Ausk Crisafulli at rreditor@rangerreview.com.