Artist and curator on new installation at Wall of Forgotten Natives

A tipi sits in the snow.
The tipi at the Wall of Forgotten Natives in Minneapolis on Dec. 19, 2019.
Cody Nelson | MPR News

There is a new art installation in Minneapolis, but it’s not in a museum or a gallery. It’s on the side of the road.

In 2018, one of the city’s largest homeless encampments popped up along Hiawatha Avenue in south Minneapolis. It was on a narrow strip of land between the highway and a concrete barrier.

The encampment came to be called the Wall of Forgotten Natives because many of the people staying in tents there were Native American.

The city cleared that encampment in December of that year. Since then, city workers have covered the ground with huge metal pipes and light poles and put up a chain link fence to keep people from setting up a new camp.

But now hanging on that fence are 23 painted panels.

Courtney Cochran, who is Anishinaabe, is the artist behind the project. Angela Two Stars, who is Dakota, is the Director of All My Relations Arts and helped organize the installation. They sat down with host Cathy Wurzer to discuss the meaning and purpose of the new work.

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The 23 panels that hang on the chain link fence spell out “Never
Homeless Before 1492,” which is the year when Christopher Columbus arrived in
North America.

Cochran worked with the Native American Community Development Institute and the Minnesota Department of Transportation to create and install the work.

She visited with Native people and others who reflected personally on the root
causes of homelessness. Their thoughts and words are represented in the work.
She also wants passersby to interact with the installation.

The work will hang on the fence for the next two years. Cochran and Two Stars hope that it will spark conversation about people experiencing homelessness, the challenges they face and how to help and support them.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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