March 31, 2023

The University Avenue Project, a public instillation art gallery of 500 photographs exhibited along six miles University Avenue storefronts, bus stops, billboards and other public spaces from the State Capitol to Minneapolis, completed is May through October 1 run this week.

For those who appreciated the work or did not get a chance to see the photos of urban life from award winning photographer Wing Young Huie, the work is now available in a new book, “The University Avenue Project – Volume II”, ($12.95) published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. It contains 60 color and 60 black and white photographs.

Volume I was published in May 2010 ($12.95, 80 color and 80 BW photographs). Its purpose was to serve as a catalogue for the exhibit, while Volume II incorporated the images of people experiencing the exhibit during its six-month run.

The book contains the same photos that were seen in the Public Art Saint Paul exhibition that included a weekend evening projection on to a billboard-size screen with songs from local artists.

The photos illustrate how St. Paul has been transformed culturally with ethnic immigration and its impact on all aspects of the city. For the past 35 years, the new arrivals have added to modest community of color to make it a minority majority area in many districts and particularly along University Avenue, the six-mile ethnic corridor that connects the University of Minnesota campus with the State Capitol.

Wing Young Huie spent three years chronicling the colliding and evolving American experience on University Avenue, a jammed stretch of storefronts, taverns, big-box retailers, blue-collar neighborhoods and condominium communities – with a high concentration of new immigrants, including many from Africa and Asia.

Blending documentary photography with revelatory statements by his subjects, Wing has created a tapestry of words and images raising complex issues of race, class, gender, sexual preference, immigration, religion and cultural disconnection.

Wing” s subjects responded to one of several questions, including: What are you? How do you think others see you? What advice would you give a stranger? How has race affected you?

Their answers, chalked on blackboards, reveal the hopes, dreams and fears of Americans new and old, all striving to make their way in a complex, vital urban community. The work creates societal mirrors of who and what the city is becoming, and seeks to reveal not just what is hidden, but what is plainly visible yet seldom noticed.

“This is not only a six-mile public art exhibition,” Wing said. “This is a six-mile classroom that explores the changing cultural landscape of urban life in St. Paul.”

A native of Duluth, Wing Young Huie has received international acclaim for his projects documenting his home state of Minnesota, Published collections of his work include Frogtown; Photographs and Conversation in an Urban Neighborhood; Lake Street USA; Looking for Asian America; and, An Ethnocentric Tour. He also runs a photography studio in Minneapolis.

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