Arts Activities Support
ACHF Cultural Heritage
The Somali Museum of Minnesota will present exhibitions and lectures on Somali culture at 10 community institutions in the Twin Cities. At each event, 20-200 people will encounter and engage with Somali traditional art and culture. Success of this project will be measured by ongoing demand for the program. We will track locations continuing to request presentations, and plan for future programming with those sites. Content of the culture programming will be evaluated by Somali Museum advisors, including: Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, poet and folklorist; Scott Pollock, American Swedish Institute; Cadar Kaahin, historian and storyteller; and Said Salah Ahmed, Board Chair of the Somali Museum and globally-respected leader in Somali culture preservation.
The Somali Museum presented the Mobile Culture Show at 24 events, engaging 2,115 participants in an interaction with Somali culture and art. 900 attendees were Somali-American. Youth who had never before studied their traditional culture immersed themselves in learning about traditional artifacts and artworks, and non-Somalis gained information about Somali culture and art for the first time. The Somali Museum aimed to increase access to Somali traditional arts by bringing a mobile exhibition out into the community. We achieved this goal by bringing mobile exhibitions to 24 community events around the metro. These events comprised an exhibition of cultural artifacts, a lecture presentation, a question-and-answer period, and in some cases a family storytelling component. For 8 locations, the event included performance by the Traditional Dance Troupe. This enabled audiences to immerse themselves in Somalia's lively, joyful traditional dance. Many audience members cited the dance component as their favorite part of the event. Locations for this program were as follows: 1) Immanuel Lutheran Church – Cross Cultural Dialogue Presentation; 2,3) University of Minnesota, Coffman Union – Gallery Opening Reception, Culture Showcase; 4) West Bank Business Association – West Bank Crash Course; 5) Anoka County Immigration and Refugee Committee – Cultural Competence Training; 6-11) Franklin Library – Franklin Culture Camp; 12) CommonBond Communities – Community Presentation; 13) Children’s Theater Company – Brown Bag Lunch; 14) Whittier International School – Poetry Event; 15) Integrated Arts Academy – Extracurricular presentation; 16) Armatage Elementary – Extracurricular presentation; 17) Skyview Elementary School – Student club presentation; 18) Minnesota History Center – Valentine’s Day Around the World; 19) General Mills – Cultural Workshop; 20) ALIF Center – Family Event; 21) St Paul College – Racial Equity Talks; 22) Whittier School – Whittier Alliance Community Presentation; 23) Lyndale School – Family Cultural Night; 24) Al Amal School – Cultural Night. One highlight from the project was a 6-week event at Franklin Library. After previous seasons, we determined that recurring events are more effective for deepening youth’s engagement. This year, we partnered with Franklin Library because it is a major community hub and hangout for Somali teens. We offered a 6-week program as part of the Library’s regular teen programming, which we called “Franklin Culture Camp.” This program included 3 presentations of artifacts and art history lecture, followed by 3 presentations focused on dance. The participants shared positive feedback, saying that they had never known their own art history was something they could “study” the way they study other subjects in class. Many participants pledged to continue as volunteers at the Somali Museum. Overall, demand for this program exceeded our expectations, and we were delighted to present this program at 24 locations. To accommodate increased demand, we set up a system of work-sharing among staff, rather than having all staff at each event. This encouraged us to train all staff in cultural presentations and setting up displays, which has increased our capacity. We also adapted our pay documentation to tracking weekly hours, rather than hours per event. This was an effective solution, and we will continue this approach as the program grows. We aimed to target Somali youth re-connecting with their heritage and non-Somalis encountering Somali culture for the first time. We achieved this goal by bringing mobile exhibitions to 24 community events with diverse audiences. These events were catered to different audiences’ needs, allowing non-Somalis to ask questions and begin to understand Somali artistic culture, while challenging Somali youth participants to dig deeply into studying their own heritage. Participants at locations were as follows: Immanuel Lutheran Church – 45 participants (all non- Somali adults); University of Minnesota, Coffman Union – 65 participants (mixed Somali and non-Somali college students); Coffman Union Event 2 – 300 (mixed Somali and non-Somali students and instructors); West Bank Business Association – 10 participants (mixed Somali and non-Somali adults and youth); Anoka County Immigration and Refugee Committee – 100 (non-Somali adults); Franklin Library – 15 (all Somali youth); CommonBond Communities – 40 (mixed Somali and non-Somali adults); Children’s Theater Company – 30 (non-Somali adults); Whittier International School – 150 (mixed Somali and non-Somali parents and children); Integrated Arts Academy – 60 (non-Somali high school students); Armatage Elementary – 100 (mixed Somali and non-Somali elementary students); Skyview Upper Elementary School – 40 (Somali students); Minnesota History Center – 600 (mixed Somali and non-Somali families and children); General Mills Headquarters – 20 (mixed Somali and non-Somali adults); ALIF Center – 80 (Somali parents and children); Saint Paul College – 60 (mixed Somali and non-Somali college students and instructors); Whittier School – 100 (mixed Somali and non-Somali adults and children); Lyndale Community School – 200 (mixed Somali and non-Somali parents and children); Al Amal School – 100 (all Somali high school students). Our goal was to increase access for Minnesotans of all backgrounds, and particularly Somali-American youth, to Somali culture and art. We achieved this goal by engaging an estimated 2,115 people. Of these, estimated 900 participants were of Somali background. Both non-Somali and Somali heritage participants shared positive feedback, saying that the Somali Museum offers a resource for cultural learning that is unavailable from any other program in the Twin Cities. Interestingly, both Somalis and non-Somalis shared a similar comment: they were happy to begin to learn about Somali art and culture, but this event didn’t do enough to teach the full complexity of Somali culture. Participants from both demographics expressed that one-time events were essential for “breaking the ice,” but they also desired opportunity for deeper study. The Somali Museum is taking this feedback to its leadership and will deeply consider ways to offer deeper study in the future. We purposefully tracked and recorded information of those expressing this sentiment, so we can contact them when we implement new study programs.
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