OUR SCENE | Christina Chang: Our art scene is thriving, but where are the artists from diverse communities?

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I grew up in L.A. and I went to UC Berkeley for my undergraduate degree. I would have majored in art history, but my parents thought a degree in political theory would be more lucrative, so that was my major; I minored in art history. A Ph.D. in art history was a different story, though, so my mom gave me her blessing to pursue a doctorate at the University of Michigan. I finished my dissertation in 2010, and I was fortunate enough to have a job waiting for me as assistant curator at the Weisman Art Museum.

When I moved to the Twin Cities, I didn’t know anyone, so I was very proactive about getting to know the art scene here. That helped me get my current position at the Minnesota Museum of American Art.

I’ll be largely responsible for programming the new temporary gallery that will be opening in the Pioneer Building in St. Paul, on the cusp of Lowertown at the corner of 4th and Robert Streets. The goal is to weave the gallery into the fabric of the community: to talk with community members about what they need and want from an art space, and then to try and implement that. I think it’s really important to emphasize that this will necessarily come out of partnerships and collaborations.

The gallery will officially open with its first show on November 9, but we’re going to be open during the St. Paul Art Crawl to show people the raw space and to reach out to art lovers who will be in the area for the Crawl—a great opportunity to get their ideas for the space.

The Twin Cities art community has been incredibly supportive—everyone from curators to artists—which is really nice to see. It’s no secret that the arts are incredibly well-cultivated and well-funded here, which is why we have such a thriving arts scene. People are helping each other out, asking: “How can we work together to all get ahead?”

I also think the arts get incredible coverage here. There are so many outlets to explore, and you get the scene presented to you from various perspectives. It’s nice to have multiple levels of arts organizations, from the internationally-acclaimed Walker Art Center to the numerous nonprofit art spaces around both Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as throughout the state. You can really see how art is at the center of the Minnesota experience.

That said, I’m finding that it’s not clear, at least on the surface, where the diverse communities’ art is being displayed and promoted. For example, I’m having some trouble finding Hmong and Somali community artists through the usual channels. It’s clear that they aren’t as connected to the arts scene, and I wonder if that is a result of a barrier to entry. I’m hoping to change that, to really involve them in the discourse on local and regional art, because they are an integral part of the picture.


Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.