NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | A Confluence of River Artists at All My Relations Art Gallery

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There was a confluence of river artists on Friday, May 13 at the All My Relations Art Gallery on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. Curator Heid Erdrich hosted an evening of art activities that brought together Original Green exhibition artists Carolyn Lee Anderson, Gordon Coons, Gwen Westerman, Bobby Wilson, Joseph Allen and Mona Smith with poet and artist Wang Ping.

The Original Green exhibit, which opened at the Mill City Museum in 2010, marked its debut Friday in the American Indian Cultural Corridor. The show features finely detailed paintings by Carolyn Lee Anderson, bold and colorful canvases by Gordon Coons, quilted scenes of St. Anthony Falls by Gwen Westerman, work by Bobby Wilson in wood and metal, photography by Joseph Allen and projected video images by Mona Smith. The artists were on hand to greet people and talk about their work inspired by the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls area.

Wang brought her Kinship of Rivers project to the gallery in the form of multiple banners of river flags, some made from silk cloth printed with photos and others hand-painted on cotton. Visitors to the gallery were invited to join in and write river-inspired poetry and create images on flags that will become part of the project that brings together communities from China’s Yangtze River and the Mississippi.

Wang and artists from the Kinship of Rivers project conducted a flag making workshop. Gallery visitors of all ages were given hand-dyed cotton cloth; markers and paint with which to create river flags that will be joined into banners. Afterwards, there was a presentation by Wang Ping about the Kinship of Rivers project. She explained to the audience that the Mississippi River and the Yangtze River, whose headwaters are in Tibet, are “sister rivers” both originating in the homelands of indigenous people.

Finally, there was a poetry reading by Heid Erdrich, Marne Zafar, Emily Johnson, Denise Sweet and Wang Ping. The reading included a video presentation by Carolyn Lee Anderson of one of her poems.

The gallery space, still smelling of fresh paint, opened this past January. All My Relations Art Gallery shares space and is a part of NACDI, an organization focused on community development in the American Indian community. Many notables in the American Indian arts community turned out for the May 13 event. Rachel Limon, along with her young son and husband Douglas Limon, an artist and member of AMRA’s advisory board, commented that she was glad that she and her family could make flags for the river, “What a great event.”

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