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Six artists across Minnesota selected for Artists Respond: Equitable Rural Futures

Projects to happen throughout 2021, along with Springboard rural programming including the Rural Regenerator Fellowship


Clockwise from top left: Christy Goulet, Mai'a Williams, Joyce laPorte, Inkpa Mani, Michelle de la Vega, and Nancy XiáoRong Valentine

Fergus Falls, MN – Springboard for the Arts is honored to announce the artists selected for the Artists Respond: Equitable Rural Futures open call for artists in Minnesota. The artists are Mai'a Williams of Winona, Christy Goulet of Dilworth, Michelle de la Vega of Spring Valley, Joyce laPorte of Cloquet, Inkpa Mani of Wheaton, and Nancy XiáoRong Valentine of Underwood.

Through sharing Indigenous music and teachings about the deweigan (drum), Christy Goulet will create a series of events titled Preserving our legacy, Honoring our Indigenous Youth at Noojimo. Michelle de la Vega will produce High Jump, a social practice, documentary film and multidisciplinary art project that focuses on land access for communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, while Joyce laPorte's project is Make a Village, a collection of Ojibwe dolls. Through interviews, drawings, and projections Inkpa Mani will investigate Pseudonym, looking at the importance of a name to Indigenous people, and Mai'a Williams will create The Future of Love, a collection of essays, poems, images and prompts about living on the margins in rural Minnesota during a series of global crises. Nancy XiáoRong Valentine will produce The Audacity to be Asian in Rural America, a series of 12 watercolor and Chinese ink scroll paintings.

As part of Artists Respond: Equitable Rural Futures, artists and creatives in rural places and small towns in Minnesota were invited to propose projects that center the perspectives and experiences of people who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous or People of Color), Native, LGBTQIA+, and/or People with disabilities in rural and tribal communities, create safe and supportive spaces for connection, confront truth about historic harms, bring non-dominant stories into light, and/or address racism, homophobia and/or transphobia. These artists, working in storytelling, film, music, watercolor, portraiture, and mutli-media, will be funded with $2,500 for their project, funded through the Blandin Foundation.

Artist Christy Goulet summarizes the importance of this work in rural communities – "Some say the grass is greener on the other side, your grass can be just as green when you take time to water it".

"This is important to me because it is my opportunity to share my family's story in a bold and public way that honors their collective experience," notes artist Nancy XiáoRong Valentine. "Though this project is deeply personal, every painting in this series is stroked with themes of duty, filial piety, sacrifice, resilience, and overwhelmingly, love. I hope this exhibition, artist talk and listening circle will allow my community to open their eyes, ears and hearts to begin further acknowledging and honoring the lives and experiences of their rural Asian American and Pacific Islander neighbors."

"Equity and racial justice is just as much of a responsibility for rural places to confront as it is anywhere else, and the work comes with its own unique challenges and needs in small towns and remote areas," says Michele Anderson, Springboard for the Arts Rural Program Director. "Each Artists Respond project, in its own unique way, reminds us that making a more equitable world starts with personal healing, expands to family, and outwards into a community. We're so grateful for the artists in this group who are each using their creative talents to offer generous and challenging spaces for stories that need to be heard, and conversations that need to happen in all places."

Further opportunities to engage will be announced as the artists' projects progress. The Rural program of Springboard for the Arts has multiple upcoming opportunities for engagement including:

• From the Field: Imagining the Future of Rural Regeneration, a conversation with three rural creative leaders in New London, Minnesota who are navigating the intersections of community stewardship and transformation in the wake of the pandemic, generational shifts in leadership and changes in economic and demographic trends. Meet Bethany Lacktorin (artist, musician, Chair of the New London Arts Alliance and Director of New London Little Theatre), and Kristin Allen (artist and designer at Greenwater Garage) for a glimpse into daily life in New London, strategies for collaboration, and their hopes for this small town's future. Free, via Zoom, May 21, at 1:30pm.

• Rural Regenerator Fellowship, an opportunity for people committed to strengthening their rural communities through art, culture and creativity in the Upper Midwest – Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and the Native Nations that serve those geographies. This opportunity builds on Springboard's 10 years of work from Fergus Falls, hosting the Rural Arts & Culture Summit, and artist-led creative community development partnerships in rural places. Fellows will be selected from communities of 50,000 people or fewer, and will receive $10,000 in flexible funds, cohort connections, and network support. Info session on May 21, applications due by June 11.

Artists Respond: Equitable Rural Futures Projects

The Audacity to be Asian in Rural America

Nancy XiáoRong Valentine


Project date: May 10 - June 19th, 2021

"The Audacity to be Asian in Rural America: we owe you no apologies" is a series of 12 watercolor and Chinese ink scroll paintings on rice paper that visually tells the story of the Hao family's Chinese American immigrant experience in rural western Minnesota. Artist talk and listening circle featuring stories and experiences shared by regional residents of the Asian American Pacific Islander community will take place in June at the Otter Tail County Historical Society in Fergus Falls. | @nancyxvalentine |

Make a Village

Joyce laPorte


Project date: August 2021

Joyce will make a village of Ojibwe faceless dolls depicting the importance of family and community. They will be displayed in the community library on the Fond du Lac Reservation for hands on interaction for all ages. The dolls will draw the community into a dialogue about family, language, and safety in the community, reminding youth and elders alike that there is always someone there for you no matter what the crisis is.

Pseudonym: The Importance of Indian Names

Inkpa Mani


Project date: August - September 2021

"Pseudonym" will look at the importance of a name to Indigenous people. Many Native Americans today have both a legal name and a traditional name they use, but outside of tribal communities there are a lot of misconceptions about it. Inkpa Mani will interview elders with traditional Indian names and create portraits of them based on their name. He will then project the interviews and artwork he creates on to local buildings to share the pride and rich culture of an Indian names. | @inkpa_mani_art

The Future of Love

Mai'a Williams


Project date: September 2021 publication

The Future of Love is a collection of essays, poems, images and prompts about living on the margins in rural Minnesota during a series of global crises - while mothering a teenage daughter. It is poetry as mutual aid. Interwoven in the texts are reflections on being Black, Indigenous, queer, nonbinary, Muslim with mental health challenges. The prompts/questions invite the reader to self-reflect on their own personal crises, on history, land, and what the future of love looks like.

High Jump

Michelle de la Vega

Spring Valley

Project target date: October 2021

High Jump is a social practice, documentary film and multidisciplinary art project that focuses on land access for BIPOC communities, specifically BIPOC women, in the context of agricultural rural environments. The project will follow the journeys of two BIPOC women, one single and one partnered, as they endeavor to access land for themselves and their families. High Jump will explore topics such as food sovereignty, sustainability for self and family, black and brown spaces, internalized oppression, systemic equity barriers, creative ways to access land outside the establishment, beliefs and ideas about land, ownership and more. The content of the project will be developed through dialog, film documentation, land based art making, poetry and play writing.

Preserving our legacy, Honoring our Indigenous Youth at Noojimo

Christy Goulet


Project date: Ongoing

Christy will share Indigenous music and teachings about the deweigan (drum), keeping stories and hope alive while passing on knowledge to the younger generation! Elders will teach youth about the meaning of the drum, and the prayers and songs for health, healing and happiness that accompany the drum. Community members will gather every weekend and either have a Inipi (Sweat-lodge) which these songs are the main component of, or learn oral teachings and traditions from elders that go with these songs. The events will also help young people learn independent living skills and how to stay connected to their true selves through language, song and ceremony.

About Springboard for the Arts

Springboard for the Arts is an economic and community development organization for artists and by artists. From our offices in Fergus Falls and Saint Paul, MN, Springboard provides programs that help artists make a living and a life, and programs that help communities connect to the creative power of artists. Our work is about creating communities and artists that have a reciprocal relationship, where artists are key contributors to community issues and are visible and valued for the impact they create. We do this work by creating simple, practical solutions and systems to support artists. Springboard's work has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and The Guardian. Springboard's work directly impacts over 25,000 artists each year in our home state of Minnesota. Through national tools and training Springboard's programs have been replicated in over 100 communities across the U.S. and internationally. Learn more about our work at:


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