September 2, 2010
by Sue Gens, Executive Director, Minnesota State Arts Board
New Native Theatre (that’s artistic director Rhiana Yazzie holding the banner on the left)—seen here at the 2010 Minnesota American Indian Month Kick-off community walk—is one of the organizations sited in Minneapolis’s Franklin Avenue American Indian cultural corridor. Photo by J.R. Auginash
After years of hiatus (due to state budget cuts) the Minnesota State Arts Board was pleased to reintroduce a folk and traditional arts program this year. When we did, we knew we would be helping to preserve historic art forms, but we didn’t realize that we also might be playing a role in realizing a vibrant, new cultural future for an important community in Minnesota.
Franklin Avenue, in south Minneapolis, plays a central role in modern American Indian urban history. Since the days of federal relocation in the 1950s, Franklin Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood have been home to a substantial number of American Indian people, and continues to have the densest population of urban American Indians in the country.
Franklin Avenue was once a hotbed for American Indian civil rights. George Mitchell, Dennis Banks, and Clyde Bellecourt gathered here as they founded the American Indian Movement. The first Urban Indian Health Board and the first and only American Indian-preference housing project in the country were created here. During this dynamic period, a strong sense of community developed in the area.
Sadly, by the 1990s, the Franklin Avenue neighborhood had become best known, not for citizen action, but for poverty and crime.
Today, Franklin Avenue is being transformed into the first urban Indian destination corridor in the country. The vision encompasses culture, economics, community, and arts; the goal is to develop the corridor to stimulate economic opportunity and increase the quality of life for the residents of the neighborhood.
Residents and visitors might see a play at the New Native Theatre or stay at an Indian-owned hotel. As they walk along the corridor, they may pass a pow-wow in a park or a new school for Indian youth. They could also stop in at Indian cafes, where elders gather to tell stories.
A show by Frank Big Bear—whose work is pictured above—will be the first exhibition in the All My Relations Arts Gallery. Photo courtesy of artist
All My Relations Arts gallery, a premier contemporary American Indian fine arts gallery, will open soon. Future plans also include a Regional American Indian Cultural Center that would host American Indian language, arts, history, music, performance, research, education, and storytelling.
The Arts Board was pleased to invest a $70,000 Folk and Traditional Arts grant in the All My Relations Arts Plaza that will be part of the first annual American Indian Cultural Corridor Festival in May 2011.
Minnesota is teeming with new life and new possibilities so book your flight now and join us for a celebration of exciting new possibilities at the American Indian Cultural Corridor Festival. (If you can’t get here in person, you can visit the corridor online at www.nacdi.org).