by Dennis Dalman
The struggles and joys of refugees adapting to life in central Minnesota are vividly reflected in an art exhibit that will open April 6 at the Stearns History Museum.
Entitled Hands Across the World: The Journey Continues, the art show will be open for viewing through May 25. The exhibit’s curator is Carol Weiler of Sartell, who is herself an accomplished artist and photographer.
An opening reception, with no admission charge, will take place from 1-3 p.m. Sunday, April 12 at the museum, located at 235 33rd Ave. S. in St. Cloud. During the opening reception, refreshments will be served, including sambusas, a Somali food. Demonstrations of cultural activities will include Sakina Abukar doing henna designs and Jeri Olson-McCoy giving a hands-on weaving session.
The art exhibit features many works in many media made by recent immigrants to Minnesota, as well as stories they wrote about what they have endured – in some cases horrific violence and severe deprivations in their homelands.
The media on display will include fabric construction, weaving, ceramic and mosaic art. They will be exhibited next to photographs and stories written by the participants.
The ambitious art project began last year when the Paramount Education Outreach program and the Paramount Visual Arts Center collaborated with Hands Across the World. The latter is a St. Cloud-based agency serving the needs of refugees new to this area. The project provided four local artists who gave workshops to the immigrants lasting from four to six weeks. The workshops helped participants develop language, social and work skills while also offering them the chance to use artistic expression. In turn, the Paramount and the teachers learned much about helping fulfill the artistic needs of such a broad and diverse group of people.
The learning and art-development sessions took place in the winter of 2014.