December 3, 2022
Kaysone Syonesa

MINNEAPOLIS (Aug. 23, 2018) — Lao American artists in North Minneapolis recently received the Springboard for the Arts Cultivate Grant for their Laomagination: Transitions pop-up exhibit project.

The event will be held at the current greenspace near the proposed Golden Valley station. Among the artists and community organizations involved are award-winning poet Bryan Thao Worra, Lao American community builder and theater artist Kaysone Syonesa, publisher Sahtu Press, the international Science Fiction Poetry Association, and the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota. The first activities are anticipated to begin shortly after Sept. 17.

“2018 is personally significant to me because it marks the 20th anniversary since I first moved to Minnesota,” Thao Worra said. “It’s also been 11 years since I first moved into North Minneapolis for work and community building with the local neighborhood organizations, the Lao Assistance Center and the refugees rebuilding their lives in the area. Kaysone Syonesa has also been a positive and engaging figure in these efforts as an artist with long ties to the area.”

Laomagination: Transitions is envisioned as an interdisciplinary creative placemaking opportunity to create a “Laomaginarium” pop-up arts presentation/workshop environment for community members to participate and share in traditional folk arts, storytelling, creative gaming, poetry, and performance arts centered around themes of community, transition, imagination and memory. “It’s a modest sum to present this project, but we all hope it’s a prelude of bigger efforts to come that bring the community together in hope, harmony and equity,” Thao Worra said.

Kaysone Syonesa holds the distinction of being one of the first Lao American women to hold a degree in the theater arts, graduating in 2008 from the University of Minnesota. She has performed widely with many of the key Asian American and POC theater and performing arts organizations in Minnesota including Ananya Dance Theater, Green T Production, Lowry Lab, and Pangea. She has also been fearless in creating her own opportunities, such as the Moonlight Collective. She recently took part in the Loom Labs’ production “The Middle Keeps Moving.”

Although Lao Minnesotans are the third largest Lao refugee community in the U.S. after California and Texas, with more than 12,000 in Minnesota and in particular there are more than 6,000 in North Minneapolis and the nearby suburbs, there’s little to no programming conducted near them and the community is often considered invisible even after 4 decades. The project is designed to provoke curiosity both internally and externally to reignite conversations on who the community is,  who they’ve been and who they can be in “a harmony-centered process to encourage inclusion and participation for Lao and non-Lao alike.”

The project will be one of the first times many have a chance to be invited and participate in Lao American activities, and to see how other communities and our own youth respond to a public presence of our community outside of traditional festivals or social needs.

“We are not coming together for a funeral, wedding, birthday, or cause, but just because we want to have art in our lives for a moment, at any level of expertise,” Thao Worra said. Laomagination: Transitions will leverage existing community expertise and open new possibilities.

Springboard for the Arts is an economic and community development organization for artists and by artists. Their work is about building stronger communities, neighborhoods, and economies, and they believe that artists are an important leverage point in that work. Springboard for the Arts’ mission is to cultivate vibrant communities by connecting artists with the skills, information, and services they need to make a living and a life. In 2016 Springboard for the Arts adopted a new 5-year strategic framework. They are working towards a day when every artist in the US has access to the tools they need to make a living and a life and impact their community, and where every community in the U.S. has access to their local creative capacity. For more information, visit: https://springboardforthearts.org.

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