Indigenous Art. Indigenous perspectives.

We Are Still Here: Second Mural Artists Cohort

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Minneapolis, MN—The Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI), All My Relations Arts, and Hennepin Theatre Trust are pleased to announce and welcome the recipients of the second We Are Still Here (WASH) Artists Cohort.

These three mural artists are Racquel Banaszak (Red River Ojibwe), Summer Cohen (Lac Du Flambeau Ojibwe), and Jearica Fountain ((Karuk/Pit River/Nisenan/Miwok). Thomasina Topbear (Oglala Lakota/Santee Dakota) will mentor this artist cohrt.

Thomasina Topbear

Thomasina Topbear (Oglala Lakota/Santee Dakota), “No More Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women,” 2020, aerosol paint, Frogtown, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

For the development of the We Are Still Here Artists Cohort, All My Relations Arts partnered with Hennepin Theatre Trust to co-develop and implement a nine-month learning cohort featuring three Native American artists. The creation of the artists’ cohort amplifies the voices and presence of Native people of Minnesota in the life, culture, art, and activation of Hennepin Avenue & the American Indian Cultural Corridor. An experienced artist provides advice, mentorship, and training with an emphasis on murals. The artists gain tools and expand their learning. They will implement their training through a series of projects.

Thomasina Topbear, We Are Still Here Mural Artist Mentor shares, “I am excited to be working with this all-Native artist cohort. Community is very important to me and has played a key role in my upbringing. I feel that being a part of any Indigenous community is sharing your resources and knowledge for the betterment of the whole. I am honored to have been asked by All My Relations Arts Gallery & Hennepin Theatre Trust to be a mentor and share my skill sets with those wanting to learn.”

ABOUT THE PROGRAM

We Are Still Here is a multiyear collaborative partnership between the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) and Hennepin Theatre Trust to bring

large-scale, high-profile public artworks to the Hennepin Theatre District and the American Indian Culture Corridor. This ongoing and evolving initiative seeks to match emerging Native artists with established Native arts mentors in an extending fellowship that creates a variety of public artworks which promote Native and Indigenous storytelling in the community along Hennepin Avenue and throughout the greater Twin Cities metro area.

We Are Still Here is a catalyst that weaves Native and Indigenous culture back into Hennepin Avenue, connecting the district’s community to arts and cultural experience to its past in unexpected and profound ways.

“We’re proud to partner with NACDI for the second We Are Still Here artist cohort. After the success of our two-year digital art pilot cohort, I’m excited to see the murals the artists create this year as we continue to weave Native and Indigenous culture back into Hennepin Avenue and the American Indian Cultural Corridor, connecting the district to its past through Native and Indigenous truth-telling and celebrating the vibrant tapestry of our community.” – Mary Jane Mansfield, Hennepin Theatre Trust Public Art Manager.

ABOUT THE WASH ARTIST MENTOR

Mural mentor: Thomasina Topbear (Oglala Lakota/Santee Dakota)

Thomasina Topbear is a self-taught artist, muralist, published illustrator, and organizer from the Oglala Lakota and Santee Dakota nations. She is a board member of the international all-female paint crew Few & Far Women and
co-founder of City Mischief Murals, an all-BIPOC artist collective centered on healing through art. Specializing in large-scale murals her work can be seen on the sides of buildings throughout the country. Thomasina has organized several events focusing on empowering and creating safe spaces for youth and fellow artists to practice their crafts. She draws influences from her Oceti Sakowin culture while using art to express thoughts on community, social justice, spirituality, and togetherness.

Thomasina has worked with numerous institutes and organizations including, Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center, Phipps Center for the Arts, Hennepin Theatre Trust, Minneapolis College of Arts and Design, and Saint Paul College. The Forecast Public Art, Knight Foundation, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Board have all supported her efforts through grants.

ABOUT THE WASH ARTIST COHORT

Racquel Banaszak

Racquel Banaszak (Bad River Ojibwe/Bois Forte Ojibwe), muralist

Racquel Banaszak (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe) is a visual artist based in Minneapolis. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Minnesota. Her degree is in heritage studies and public history with a focus on Indigenous representation. She earned her graduate certificate in Native American studies from Montana State University in 2018. Banaszak earned a bachelor’s degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2012. She studied Indigenous visual culture at the Ontario College of Art & Design University in Toronto.

Naawegiizissukwe (she comes from the center of the sun), Summer Sky Cohen is an enrolled member of the Lac Du Flambeau Band of Ojibwe located in Wisconsin. She belongs to makwa dodem, Bear clan. Summer grew up in the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Naawegiizissukwe, Summer Sky Cohen (Lac Du Flambeau Ojibwe)

Naawegiizissukwe, Summer Sky Cohen (Lac Du Flambeau Ojibwe), muralist

Living off the land with her family, Summer learned about ingenuity in being creative when it comes to survival. She learned to use plants and animals from the wild in survival and in art. She has dual degrees in political science, pre-law, and Native American studies. Summer continues to share with Native people the gifts she holds in her mind by offering a holistic way to understand our place as Native people on this earth through the intertwining of beads, bling, and buckskin to tell us stories and ensure the survival of our cultures.

Jearica Fountain (Karuk/Pit River/Nisenan/Miwok) is an organized creative community builder. She specializes in activism for climate action, human services, and Indigenous rights. Deep connections to the lands of Turtle Island, ancestors, and Indigenous lifeways inspired her. She is enthusiastic to advance people of color while leaning on her culture. She is experienced in collaborating with Indigenous-led nonprofit organizations and Indigenous-owned companies. These build on the empowerment and growth of Native peoples. Through these collaborations, she transforms ideas to create artistic visual representations.

ABOUT THE SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS

All My Relations Arts

All My Relations Arts (AMRA) operates the All My Relations Arts Gallery, Minnesota’s premier American Indian-owned and operated contemporary fine arts gallery. Located on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, the gallery resides within the heart of the American Indian Cultural Corridor. AMRA presents fine art exhibits throughout the year, as well as hosting tours, presentations, and programs.

All My Relations Arts

Jearica Fountain ((Karuk/Pit River/Nisenan/Miwok), muralist

AMRA provides the Twin Cities, greater Minnesota, and beyond with high-quality exposure to Native American fine arts. As an initiative of the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI), All My Relations Arts serves a very distinct role in NACDI’s community development work. AMRA provided the public with education about American Indian history, culture, and contemporary experiences through the arts.

Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI)

The institute’s work is founded on the belief that all American Indian people have a place, purpose, and a future strengthened by sustainable community development. NACDI initiates projects that benefit the Native community, often in partnership with other Indigenous-led organizations. Our future is bright due to the resilience and vision of our ancestors.

Founded in 2007, NACDI is approaching its second decade with a renewed commitment to the Indigenous values that helped our people persevere despite centuries of hardship.

Hennepin Theatre Trust

Hennepin Theatre Trust drives cultural and economic vitality in Minnesota through leadership of the dynamic Hennepin Theatre District in downtown Minneapolis and educational programming that reaches every area of the state. Its historic theatres — Orpheum, State, and Pantages — and event center at 900 Hennepin Avenue light up Hennepin Avenue with top-tier entertainment, including the best of Broadway and a wide variety of arts programming. Hennepin Theatre Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

This activity is made possible, in part, by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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