See more of the story

At almost 20 feet in the air, Nastaaja Johnson flips and dips seemingly effortlessly.

Her flawless execution serves as a reminder to the broader community to breathe after months of COVID lockdown and days of watching the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

It's important for people to step back, find moments of passion and joy and have fun, Johnson said Wednesday.

She founded Vivid Black Paint, which has been hosting pop-ups that offer aerial circus artists performing for the community.

Johnson started the nonprofit as a way to employ and support artists of color during the pandemic.

"The grief of COVID, fires and just a lot of things were compressing our capacity to breathe and feel whole, open, free and (the ability to) find joy," she said. "So I wanted to do something that made sense for what I can offer."

The nonprofit's latest pop-up is themed "We Must Breathe" and attracted about a dozen people cheering in awe at the performers at a garden near Juxtaposition Arts off Broadway Avenue in north Minneapolis.

Oftentimes, people marvel at the work the artists do, said volunteer Clara Younge, who has been in aerial arts for nearly five years.

"For the most part, people are walking by and they're like, 'What the heck?' and then they either stop and watch or they have somewhere to be," she said.

"A lot of times people come up and ask a lot of questions because it's not something you see all the time."

Next, the group will be at Tamales y Bicicletas Urban Farm at 2820 S. 15th Av. in Minneapolis on July 24.

Alex Chhith • 612-673-4759