Thursday, July 10, 2014

Immigrants in rural Minnesota share culture and heritage through folk art

Rural immigrants in some corners of Minnesota have been able to share their culture and heritage with locals, and each other, "with the help of arts groups, local festivals and public money that supports cultural pursuits," Gregg Aamot reports for MinnPost. (Aamot photo: The "Tapestry of Friendship")

"Lisa Rathje, a folklorist and teacher at Goucher College in Baltimore, traveled throughout Minnesota as a consultant for the Minnesota State Arts Board, looking, in particular, for examples of folk art," Aamot writes. "She said she was struck by the interesting work being done by immigrants and refugees—much of it non-commercially—and the interesting combination of cultures that can be expressed in various works." Rathje told him, “Newer immigrants and refugees are aware of that tension—aware of those shared lives and that gets revealed in their work."

One place where that is clearly evident is in Pelican Rapids, "an Otter Tail County town of 2,500 people where Somalis, Eastern Europeans, Latin Americans and others were first drawn by work at West Central Turkeys and other agricultural industries," Aamot writes. "Many now express their talent and culture through art."

"This intersection of old and new is captured in a community quilt, called the 'Tapestry of Friendship,' on display at the local library," Aamot writes. "The 25 patches on the quilt were made by local women with roots in older immigrant communities—such as Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch and Irish—and newer ones, including Somali, Bosnian and Mexican. Native American culture is also represented in the quilt. In an accompanying pamphlet, each woman explains the origins and significance of each patch in a short essay." (Read more)

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