Saint Paul Murals Project
Minnesota Museum of American Art | 350 Robert Street North, St. Paul
Jackson Street Parking Ramp | 345 Jackson Street, St. Paul
In 2017, the Minnesota Museum of American Art (the M) commissioned guest artist Vanghoua Anthony Vue (Brisbane, Australia) and five local artist-partners to create three new works commemorating the Hmong diaspora. The resulting murals appear on the 4th Street façade of the Jackson Street Parking ramp and in the windows of the Historic Pioneer Endicott, which is home to the Minnesota Museum of American Art; a third large work was created on canvas and exhibited at the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) in St. Paul’s Little Mekong neighborhood.
The murals followed an intensive month of workshops and conversations the M and Vue held in March 2017 with local Hmong elders, families, artists, and organizational partners. Vue returned to St. Paul in September 2017 to lead creation of the commissioned works with a team of local artists: Xee Reiter, Christina Vang, Melissa Vang, Nicollazzi Xiong, and Shoua Yang.
The M’s Saint Paul Murals Project was supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight Arts Challenge, through which the foundation aims to fund the best ideas for engaging and enriching St. Paul through the arts. Additional support was provided by the Saint Paul Foundation and Lowertown Future Fund, the City of St. Paul’s Neighborhood STAR program, PAK Properties, Minnesota State Arts Board, and partnering organizations like Hmong Museum, Studia H, Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, and Asian Economic Development Association.
The piece unveiled at AEDA brings together vibrantly painted, geometric designs influenced by Hmong batik aesthetics and textiles with portraits of people from the local and global Hmong communities who hold particular meaning for Vue and his local artist collaborators. Additionally, the M’s 4th Street windows, located within the Historic Pioneer Endicott, are the site for a temporary tape installation created by Vue, offering an abstracted map of the artist’s experiences with several sites of significance to St. Paul’s Hmong community. The third mural site, the Jackson Street parking ramp, was transformed by Vue and his team of local artists with artworks based on individual stories and symbolism, laid against a colorful camouflage background inspired by Hmong story cloths.
Kristin Makholm, Executive Director of Minnesota Museum of American Art, says: “This is more than just a public art project. It’s about more than our museum commissioning new murals for the city. The Saint Paul Murals Project brings together people from the far reaches of the Hmong diaspora for conversation and creative exchange. Vue’s interactions and conversations with our city’s Hmong community this past spring, including Hmong artists, families, and elders, instill in the resulting murals the richness of that global Hmong heritage, rooted in the strength of Vue’s local, one-on-one connections and creative collaboration.”
Dig Deeper into the Saint Paul Murals Project
L to R: Nicollazzi Xiong, Christina Vang, Vanghoua Anthony Vue, Xee Reiter, Shoua Yang, Melissa Vang. Photo: Sarah White
About the mural artists:
Vanghoua Anthony Vue is a multidisciplinary artist whose current practice recontextualises his Hmong heritage within his Australian upbringing and experience, through a postcolonial and critical, arts-based lens and approach. Often employing strategies of mistranslation, subversion, humor, satire, and absurdity, Vue’s work engages with questions of cultural and national identity, place, history, cultural “traditions” and craft, high art and artefact. He is currently undertaking his PhD at the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, Australia.
Xee Reiter began her infatuation with art in grade school and it has since remained an intrinsic part of her creative life. Her eclectic style ranges from lettering and calligraphy to line illustrations and painting, using various mediums. As a first generation Hmong American, her cultural roots can be found in some of her work. She teaches art to youth at the local school and does henna body art at different festivals throughout the metro. Reiter lives in Saint Paul with her husband, three kids, and two small turtles.
Christina Vang is an art director, graphic designer, and multidisciplinary artist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Vang’s work is evocative of her experience as a Hmong American woman and tends to be surreal and whimsical in nature. Many of her projects explore human relationships, cultural identity, and reference childhood.
Melissa Vang is a visual artist, photographer, and production/stage manager. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, with a focus on photography, printmaking, and book arts. Her photography was most recently showcased in two exhibitions at In Progress: NEXUS: Honoring the Self-Taught Photographic Artist (2016) and Hmong Tattoo (2017). Her current photography project, F R I D G E S, involves taking portraits of Hmong refrigerators and freezers from all over the world and collecting stories of food, culture, identity, and family. A work from this series was part of the 40th Anniversary We Are Hmong exhibit at the Minnesota History Center.
Nicollazzi Xiong is a multidisciplinary creative designer and visual artist living in Minneapolis, with a passion for lettering, graphic design, and the strong patterning and craft of the Hmong textile arts she learned from her grandmother. True to her Hmong heritage, she likes to convey deep meaning by way of combining symbols, storytelling, and imagery rendered in a colorful but minimalist style.
Shoua Yang’s work is both a reflection of his experience in the United States as an Asian American and a preservation of the Hmong heritage. Yang uses his art to bring to light American social issues and experiences from the vantage of a refugee.
The M’s Saint Paul Murals Project is supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight Arts Challenge. Additional support was provided by the Saint Paul Foundation and Lowertown Future Fund, the City of St. Paul’s Neighborhood STAR program, PAK Properties, Minnesota State Arts Board, Sherwin Williams, Wet Paint, Griffith University, and partnering organizations like Hmong Museum, Studia H, Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, and Asian Economic Development Association.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.