Growing up in Los Angeles, I had certain misconceptions of the Midwest. I didn’t know much about Minneapolis, and I definitely wouldn’t have assumed it to be the bustling and diverse city it is. But as I learned soon enough, Minneapolis has long been a home for myriad cultures and a sanctuary for immigrants.
We decided to pay homage to this feature with our 2008 exhibit Midwest Sanctuary, for which we invited other transplants like me to show their works. The opening reception was held in the winter, and on a snowy night we gathered together. The show featured works from artists that had emigrated to the Midwest from various parts of the world: Iraq, Brazil, Hungary, and more.
Rabi Sanfo, an artist that had moved to the Midwest from Burkina Faso, shared his striking metal sculptures. Ida Kumoji, a Ghanaian artist working as an illustrator and educator in the Midwest, installed a cross-cultural design project that combined traditional adinkra with the Western alphabet into patterns. We also invited artists to bring a family dish to share, and we dined on everything from Sri Lankan curry to Burkinab. goat stew. The artwork was vibrant and lively, the gallery warm and welcoming.
As part of the exhibit we posted a world map backed with foam core. Guests were invited to tag with colored pins where they were from, where their parents were from, and where they lived now. Colored pins peppered the map from coast to coast and edge to edge, a wonderful representation of the diversity within the gallery walls and across the areas of the Midwest we called home. In addition to a thousand life lessons, another wonderful thing to have come out of my days at Peace Coffee was great friendships. Not the least of these was my friendship withNick, who worked as a bike courier delivering upwards of 400 pounds of coffee daily on delivery routes throughout the Twin Cities. Nick had become one of my best friends when we worked together during my time at the small roastery. Our friendship blossomed into a relationship, and his family quickly absorbed me, becoming an integral part of my own little Midwest sanctuary.
This post is adapted from It’s Never Going To Work: A Tale of Art and Nonprofits in the Minneapolis Community. Book includes illustrations by Athena Currier. ©2019 Jamie Schumacher.
It’s Never Going To Work is a light-hearted, illustrated book that offers real-life insights on founding a community space and nonprofit. It provides tools, tips, resources, and camaraderie to community organizers and anybody attempting something new.