High school students and artists collaborate to address racism

Professional artist Juan Lucero (Image courtesy Mia website.)

The Learning and Engagement Departments of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) have partnered with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to launch a multi-generational project that will address racism through conversation and the power of art. The collaborative program began at the end of September and will use art to visualize the concept of ‘Racism as a Public Health Crisis.’ In November, Mia will display the works in an onsite exhibition.

The organizations will partner with local high schools and professional artists in
the community, including Kprecia Ambers, Juan Lucero, Nancy Ariza, and Akiko Ostlund. High school students from North High School, Como High School and Minnesota Transitions Charter School will participate in professional artist-led virtual workshops focusing on idea generation, materials and technique, individual artmaking, and group collaboration. Together, the group will co-vision, co-develop and co-create a print poster campaign and public art exhibition of racial and health equity-themed artworks.

Lucero, one of the artists that will work with the project, is a member of the Isleta Pueblo tribe. Born and raised in New Mexico, Juan now lives in the Twin Cities. He holds a BA in museum studies from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M.

Throughout his 15-plus year career in the arts, he has immersed himself in Native American art with an emphasis on Southwest jewelry and traditional Pueblo pottery. He spent seven years at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, where he worked as an art purchaser and in the education department.

Lucero is the first full-time fellow of Native American art at Mia. Working with Jill Ahlberg Yohe, Mia’s associate curator of Native American art, he does everything a curator does, from pulling together objects for exhibitions to community outreach to building relationships with artists.

Angela Olson, studio programs associate, said “Art is a powerful means of communication, and this project couldn’t be more timely. Through this partnership and exhibition, we will learn alongside the artists and students and engage in important conversations about the impacts of systemic racism inside and outside of Mia.”

At the conclusion of the program, Mia will show the works in an onsite exhibition in its Community Commons Gallery in November, with an in-person reception in January.

“We’re truly excited and deeply grateful for this collaboration with Mia that will give local school students a powerful voice through the medium of art. Art has the power to look at life through a new lens, start discussion, stimulate engagement translating experiences across space and time,” said Bukata Hayes, vice president of racial and health equity at Blue Cross. “We will not succeed in eliminating systemic racism without elevating the voices and stories from our community members who have historically been silenced.

Through this project we hope to bring people together and inspire reflection – a starting point we must all embrace to identify our biases and dismantle structural racism.”

Workshops will yield student artworks for onsite exhibition of works in Mia’s Community Commons Gallery from November 2021 – February 2022. There will be an onsite ‘opening’ event to convene participating youth artists in January of 2022.

For more info: https://new.artsmia.org.