“Art from Within:” an audience for creative expression regarding civil liberties


Bemidji— Staff at the ACLU-MN, Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project is excited by the quality and number of submissions they’ve received for the third annual “Art from Within” exhibit, and invite the general public to join artists, jurors and staff for the opening reception of the gallery show, slated for the first Friday in March. This year’s gallery show will take place at the Bemidji Community Arts Center (BCAC) from March 2nd through March 31st with an opening reception on March 2nd from 4:00—7:00pm. The event is free and open to the public—all are welcome.

The Art from Within show features artwork that gives a personal and compelling view into the lives of real people whose civil liberties, protected under the Bill of Rights, have been tested in some way. Past exhibits highlighted the art of individuals impacted by incarceration directly or indirectly. This year’s theme focuses on artists’ feelings and understandings about what the Bill of Rights means to them. First Amendment freedom of expression is guaranteed for all who reside in the United States, regardless of their civil status. Art is another way that those whose voices are often suppressed can find an audience.

Art from Within is made possible by Region 2 Arts Council, Blandin Foundation, and the Cy and Paula DeCosse Fund. For more information, please visit: http://www.aclu-mn.org/issues/racialjustice/greaterminnesotaracialjust/gmrjpnorth/newsfromupnorth/

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and expanding individual rights and personal freedom. The ACLU is the nation's foremost guardian of liberty. The ACLU-MN fights to protect civil liberties of Minnesotans through litigation, public education, and lobbying. The Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project North provides public education regarding racial justice issues through community outreach, court-monitoring, and intake services.

“Art From Within” - Exhibit History

“Art From Within” evolved from an idea that was born within an effort. Our work at the ACLU-MN, Greater MN Racial Justice Project can sometimes cause us to be isolated from the larger community because we are so immersed in the elements of the criminal justice system. Our effort, therefore, was to find a way to provide the community with an awareness of our work and to provide our clients with a connection to that world in a form other than a statistical number.

The “Art From Within” show has featured a collection of artwork submitted by regional Native American or Non-Native people who are, or have been, directly or indirectly affected by incarceration or the criminal justice system. We began event planning with a call for artists through press sources and direct mailing to correctional facilities and jails. In our application process we required an artist statement, titles of the work, and prices for any art to be sold.

The first annual “Art From Within” happened, as a Bemidji State University Intern project, in April of 2010 and featured nine artists. We had a small gallery space in a downtown Bemidji business, KD Floral, and received news coverage by Lakeland Public TV community Spotlight.

The second annual “Art From Within” exhibition (April 2011) took place in the Rail River Folk School located at 303 Railroad St., in Bemidji. The event was made possible with a grant from Two Feathers Endowment, St. Paul Foundation. Twenty four artists participated and submitted up to 3 pieces each. A panel of judges from the community juried the work prior to the opening reception. At the reception we presented ‘Best of Show’ and ‘Honorable Mention’ cash awards for each of our seven categories of artwork. (Beadwork, Drawing, Literary Arts, Painting, Sculpture, Textiles, and Woodcarving) An overall Best of Show Social Justice award was also given.

The third annual “Art From Within” show to be held in March of 2012 at the Bemidji Community Arts Center (BCAC) is made possible by Region 2 Arts Council, Blandin Foundation, and the Cy and Paula DeCosse Fund of the Minneapolis Foundation. We have incorporated a shift in the educational perspective by requiring artist’s statements and artwork to reflect a connection to any one of our U.S Constitutional Amendments; our Bill of Rights. We will also focus on an Emerging Artist category to recognize youth in our community. “Art From Within” has been and will continue to be a catalyst for showcasing the talents of people who might otherwise be isolated from their communities.


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