All My Relations: a new gallery for new Native American art


All My Relations Gallery

One of the great joys of covering the arts in Minnesota, is that through the artistic lens, I also get to explore and celebrate our state's cultural diversity. And so it was with great pleasure that I went to visit "All My Relations" gallery, the new home to contemporary Native American art, on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis.

It's located in the same building as the offices of NACDI - the Native American Community Development Institute - and is a key part of NACDI's efforts to revitalize the Franklin neighborhood.

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Elizabeth Day, Arts coordinator for "All My Relations," says the mission of the gallery is not just about promoting American Indian contemporary fine art, but also about community building, and empowering people. She says the new space, and its reception in the community, has completely exceeded all of her expectations:

I didn't really know what to expect, but I didn't expect this - the amount of community support we've had, the quality of the space. We tried to hire as many Native American workers as possible for labor - and we didn't realize it until the end, but the workers donated their time off-hours to make this happen. I think the community has a lot of pride in this gallery - it's bigger than us.


"Atomic Warrior," Frank Big Bear

For its inaugural exhibition "All My Relations" is showing new work by Frank Big Bear, on display through March 27. Approximately 400 people showed up for the gallery's opening celebration, including Minneapolis Institute of Arts curator Joe Horse Capture. He says it's a great time to live in Minneapolis:

The opening of All My Relations Gallery is so important to our community, and their first featured artist, Frank Big Bear, sets the stage for great exhibitions. It provides a new venue in our city where Native American artists can share their work with the public. There are very few art galleries that are owned and operated by Native Americans in the country.

The gallery fills a hole left by the closing of "Ancient Traders Gallery" which shut down in January of 2010. Ancient Traders was just down the street, in the building that houses Maria's Cafe.


"Silence of a Cricket," Frank Big Bear

Keeping the gallery in the neighborhood on Franklin Ave was very important to Heid Erdrich, the current curator, and to NACDI, in order to make the art as accessible as possible to the local Native American community.

"My goal for the program is to see a higher profile venue for the artists we work with at an inviting, accessible location," says Erdrich. "It is a huge thrill to see this gallery open."

NACDI has also opened "Pow Wow Grounds" - a coffee shop - in the gallery lobby to encourage people to hang out.

"The whole gallery we feel is a critical piece to our larger piece which is the Native American Cultural Corridor," says Elizabeth Day, "and we feel the arts are an important part of that community development, and creating a destination feel to this area."


"Poetry of Joseph E. Big Bear," Frank Big Bear

Looking to the future, Heid Erdrich says she wouldn't be surprised if NACDI developed an Arts Center, or a live/work space within the American Indian Cultural Corridor.