MINNEAPOLIS (Nov. 1, 2022) — In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, 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 We Are Still Here artists cohort for 2022-2023. This season’s artist mentor is Thomasina Topbear who will lead the artists cohort which includes Racquel Banaszak, Summer Cohen and Jearica Fountain.
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 and the American Indian Cultural Corridor.
With sage advice, mentorship, and training by an experienced artist with an emphasis in murals, artists will gain tools, expand their learning, and 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 and Hennepin Theatre Trust to be a mentor and share my skill sets with those wanting to learn.”
We Are Still Here is a multiyear collaborative partnership between (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 art works 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,” said Mary Jane Mansfield, Hennepin Theatre Trust Public Art Manager. “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.”
The cohort will get to work immediately this weekend with an orientation when the mentor, cohort artists and program organizers will meet and outline activities for the coming year. They will also visit areas featuring murals in the metro that include south Minneapolis, St. Paul’s east side, the Intertribal Cultural Corridor, the Bloomington South Loop project and Chromozone.
Later this month, NACDI and Hennepin Theatre Trust will host an artists reception on Saturday, Nov. 19 from 6 to 10 p.m. to celebrate the gallery installation of last season’s cohort featuring original works by Ray Janis, Missy Whiteman and Sheldon Starr. The event takes place in the Best Buy Foundation Gallery in The Hennepin (900 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis) and will feature food from Owamni, winner of the 2022 James Bears for Best New Restaurant in the Nation, with a live performance by Talon Bazille, a Dakota/Lakota rap artist, poet and beatmaker. The event is free and open to the public.
ABOUT THE MENTOR
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 a number of 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. She is a grant recipient of Forecast Public Art, Knight Foundation, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Racquel Banaszak (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe) is a visual artist based in Minneapolis, MN. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Heritage Studies and Public History with a focus on Indigenous representation at the University of Minnesota. She earned her graduate certificate in Native American Studies from Montana State University (2018) and a Bachelor of Science degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (2012). She studied Indigenous Visual Culture at the Ontario College of Art & Design University in Toronto, Canada.
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. 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 our stories and ensure the survival of our culture.
Jearica Fountain (Karuk, Pit River, Nisenan, and Miwok) is an organized creative community builder, specializing in activism for climate action, human services, and Indigenous rights. Through deep connections to the lands of Turtle Island, ancestors, and Indigenous way of life, has led to her enthusiasm to be a part of the advancement of POC while leaning on her culture She is experienced in collaborating with Indigenous led non-profit organizations and Indigenous owned companies that build on the empowerment and growth of Native peoples, to take their conceptual ideas and create visual representations into a creative art form.
Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) Our 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. Learn more at https://www.nacdi.org/
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.
The focus of AMRA is to provide the people of the Twin Cities, greater Minnesota, and beyond consistently 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, providing the public with education about American Indian history, culture, and contemporary experiences through the arts. Learn more about All My Relations Arts at allmyrelationsarts.com
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. Learn more at HennepinTheatreTrust.org.
Heart of Hennepin – celebrating 100 years of the Hennepin Theatre District
To honor the centennial, Hennepin Theatre Trust is kicking off a yearlong celebration for the Orpheum, State and Pantages theatres, along with The Hennepin event center and 824 Hennepin, home to the Brave New Workshop comedy theatre. This year-long centennial celebration honors the history of the Hennepin Theatre District and looks ahead to what the future holds for the arts, the Trust and downtown neighbors. HennepinTheatreTrust.org/centennial.
This activity is made possible by voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.