We Are Still Here
About the program
We Are Still Here is a multiyear collaborative partnership between 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 art works which promote Native and Indigenous storytelling in the community along Hennepin Avenue and throughout the greater Twin Cities metro area.
Each cohort will work closely with their mentor, Hennepin Theatre Trust and NACDI over the course of several months to create a learning experience tailored to their individual styles, goals and needs as artists. The artists and their mentor will work and learn together, creating in an artistic medium individual to each cohort; this year the artists will be creating murals, but past cohorts have designed digital artwork, animations and projections.
These artworks will be exhibited and displayed in multiple formats throughout the run of each program. The cohort experience culminates in a final capstone project of their own choosing, allowing the artists to take the skills and resources they have gained and move their work to the next level. Aside from the technical aspects of developing public art, We Are Still Here is meant to equip the artists to generate opportunities for community engagement beyond the artists themselves. Each capstone project reflects the unique nature of the artist’s exploration of Native Truth-Telling as it intersects with their intended location, supplying a platform which allows them to create engaging and though-provoking public art that boldly reimagines and restores historical and contemporary narratives which have been subjugated or otherwise minimized and negated.
Engaging with Native artists and communities has been the mission of NACDI since its founding in 2007. According to Angela Two Stars, director of NACDI’s All My Relations Arts, “by interweaving contemporary and traditional storytelling and the allyship of Indigenous communities here in the Twin Cities, we are able to connect the Dakota history of the land and continued connections to our past using the powerful visuals of our contemporary artists. ” NACDI’s long-standing commitment to public engagement has enabled them to be a source of leadership and guidance among its network of Native artists and communities, and the perfect collaborative partner for the We Are Still Here program.
“We are proud to have partnered with NACDI to broaden the awareness of Native truth-telling and work together to create a system enabling continued public art and placemaking efforts for the district,” said Mark Nerenhausen, president and CEO for Hennepin Theatre Trust. Nerenhausen also said that 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.
Meet the We Are Still Here cohort
Thomasina Topbear (Oglala Lakota and Santee Dakota Nations) is a self-taught artist, muralist, published illustrator and organizer. 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.
Racquel Banaszak (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe) is a visual artist based in Minneapolis, MN. Her works include beadwork, collage, embroidery, illustration, and painting and often focuses on Indigenous histories, kinship, and contemporary representation of Indigenous women and families.
Naawegiizissukwe (She Comes From The Center Of The Sun), Summer Sky Cohen is an enrolled member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Ojibwe in Wisconsin. She belongs to Makwa Dodem, Bear Clan, and grew up in the wilderness of the upper peninsula of Michigan. Living off the land with her family, Summer learned about the creativity in survival, using plants and animals in her artwork.
Jearica Fountain is a creative community builder specializing in activism for climate action, human services and Indigenous rights. Her passion to advance BIPOC representation stems from deep connections to the lands of Turtle Island, her ancestors and the Indigenous way of life.