Working with visitors of all ages, and volunteer gallery guides we here in the Weisman education department (Judi and Jamee) wanted space to share some of the great questions, ideas and experiences that go down as people dig into our exhibitions. Kicking this off during the exhibition "Stories from the Somali Diaspora"--the powerful photographs by Abdi Roble seems like a perfect plan. So here are some thoughts from Judi.
Rooted in Abdi Roble's visual images that document this forced migration, I've heard some important, sincere and sometimes hard conversations take place in our galleries. Why did these families leave Somalia? Why Minnesota? What's with the Hijab? Where or what or when is "home"?
Abdi's photos are powerful and visitors have been moved by stories of violence, survival, strength and humanity. Being so close to a large portion of the Somali community in Minneapolis--our West Bank neighbors--I've been made more aware of my own cultural assumptions and unexamined fears as I met more Somalis, particularly young Somali women. It has offered a sort of education programming gut check--what is our relationship beyond campus to our diverse surrounding communities? We talk access and engagement, but do we really do it? Can we do better? We are so fortunate photographer Abdi Roble brought not only his artwork, but his enthusiasm and compassion to town, offering a foundation we have all built on.
One of the collaborative ideas that emerged was to create an ongoing, weekly art club with young kids from The Brian Coyle Community Center's summer program.
Working with Coyle Arts Coordinator Angel Peluso, each Tuesday this summer, a group of kids came over from the west bank to the museum to look into art ideas and create some work in response. We've had the help of teen artist Kendall Ray to get this rolling, and hope to grow with other neighboring community and arts organizations.
The Brian Coyle Center Art Club kids have been exploring identity, materials, architecture and visual storytelling.
We're having a blast getting to know these young artists and to share ideas with their dedicated teachers and organizers. For our last summer session we went over to Brian Coyle and helped kids make shaped hats to wear in a final celebration parade planned with Bedlam Theater. The hats...well...they got a bit tall.
Thanks to Angel for her enthusiasm and here's to our continued neighborhood collaborations!