CLUES, a Latino-led nonprofit organization, is hosting “The Symphony of Existence: Dreaming No Endings or Beginnings” art exhibition from October 26 to November 28 in St. Paul. Credit: Alondra M. Garza

The Twin Cities art scene has plenty to offer this weekend. You can celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) with a Latino art exhibition, delve into the historical works of photographer Gordon Parks, attend a multicultural dance festival featuring Mexican, West African, and Japanese ballet forms, and explore Chinese zodiac paintings that reflect the experiences of a Chinese American artist from rural Minnesota. 

“The Audacity to be Asian in Rural America: We owe you no apologies” exhibition at MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids in April 2022. Credit: Nancy XiáoRong Valentine

Identity art: The Audacity to be Asian in Rural America

The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is hosting “The Audacity to be Asian in Rural America: We owe you no apologies,” an art series by Chinese American artist Nancy XiáoRong Valentine. The exhibition offers a poignant exploration of Valentine’s Chinese and Caucasian heritage and her experiences growing up in the predominantly white community of Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

Throughout her formative years, Valentine grappled with a persistent sense of being an outsider, leading her to reject her Chinese identity in an attempt to fit in with her peers. 

“I really pushed away my Chinese culture, even though my mom was very adamant about integrating her culture into the way she raised us,” she said.

The cultural divide between Valentine and her mother was exacerbated by her father’s opposition to teaching her Mandarin. 

“This language barrier between us meant that the only way I could communicate with my mom was through her broken English,” Valentine said. “I think it was a means of control for him.”

Valentine’s college experience marked a significant turning point. She found herself with more people who shared her cultural background and experiences as a person of color. 

“I finally got to be around people who ate the foods that my family ate, and I wasn’t tokenized as often as I was throughout my upbringing,” she said. “I also learned that self-deprecating humor about myself or my identity wasn’t a good thing, and I stopped doing that.” 

Chinese American artist Nancy XiáoRong Valentine. Credit: Ne-Dah-Ness Greene

Valentine’s path to becoming an artist started in 2016, when a break-in at her apartment forced her to find a new place to live. In a twist of fate, an artist loft offered her a place to stay with one condition—she had to choose an art form and participate in its studio art crawl. That marked the beginning of her journey as an artist, driven by a desire to honor her Chinese heritage and explore the intersection of her “Chinese” and “Rural Minnesotan” identity. 

The exhibit features 12 depictions of the Chinese zodiac, created with watercolors and Chinese ink on rice paper. Each animal serves as a symbolic representation of Valentine’s family: the ox represents her mother, the dog her grandmother, the pig her grandfather, and the monkey Valentine herself. 

“Asian people exist in rural spaces and have for a very long time,” Valentine said. “I hope people who grew up like I did could see the artwork and feel a sense of connection.” 

  • Date: Thursday, October 26, through Sunday, October 29
  • Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Location: Bloomington Education and Visitor Center, 3815 American Blvd. E., Bloomington
  • Cost: Free
  • For more information: Visit https://www.nancyxvalentine.com/audacityseries 

Artworks that honor Dia de los Muertos

CLUES, a Latino-led nonprofit organization, is hosting “The Symphony of Existence: Dreaming No Endings or Beginnings” art exhibition, featuring the works of three local Latin American artists. The exhibition is a tribute to Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that honors departed ancestors and loved ones. 

The exhibition features oil portraits by Kevin Martinez, a Latino-Arab American muralist and painter, and a community ofrenda (the offering placed at an altar honoring deceased loved ones) with paper mache paste by Mexican artist Flor Shurabe Soto

Additionally, Mexican poet and photographer Lucino Sosa invites attendees to write letters to their departed loved ones. 

  • Date: Thursday, October 26, through Tuesday, November 28
  • Time: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays
    Location: CLUES Latino Art Gallery, 797 E. 7th St., St. Paul 
  • Cost: Free
  • For more information: Visit https://clues.org/latino-art-events/

Photography exhibit celebrates children of color

Weinstein Hammons Gallery will host “The Song Called Hope,” featuring the works of renowned African American photographer Gordon Parks (1912-2006). 

Parks, an influential photographer of the 20th century, documented American life and culture from the early 1940s through the 2000s, focusing on race, poverty, and civil rights issues.

The exhibition, titled after a line from Parks’ poem “Come Sing With Me,” portrays children of color. The photographs, taken from the early 1940s to the 1970s, deliver representations of Black youth in various locations, including Harlem, Chicago, Alabama, Georgia, and Fort Scott, Kansas.

  • Date: Opening reception on Thursday, October 26 Exhibition runs until December 23 
  • Time: Opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. October 26 Gallery hours are from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
    Location: Weinstein Hammons Gallery, 908 W. 46th St., Minneapolis
  • Cost: Free
    For more information: Visit https://www.weinsteinhammons.com/
Ballet Folklorico Mexico Azteca Credit: Alexis Lund

Dance from around the world

The Cowles Theater, a dance and performing arts center, is hosting the “Fall Forward Festival,” showcasing diverse ballet and folkloric techniques that celebrate Mexican, West African and Japanese heritages. 

Dance company STRONG movement will perform hip-hop, ballet, modern, and West African dance styles. Ballet Folklorico Mexico Azteca will perform Mexican folkloric dance and ballet in honor of Dia de los Muertos. Japanese ballet dancer Yuki Tokuda will perform classical ballet and story-ballet based on Japanese folklore. 

Myah Goff was a summer 2023 intern at Sahan Journal, and is currently pursuing a journalism degree at the University of Minnesota.