Connecting Communities

Then and Now: Somali Stories Through Art opens this month.
Artistic treasure: Aziz Osman’s work is featured at the arboretum.

Art connects us. Each brush stroke, color, shape. Every shadow in a photograph or line in a painting can offer us a look into places, people and cultures other than our own. And in those differences, maybe we come to realize we share more than we initially thought.

It comes as no surprise when the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum began to plan its new art exhibit, Then and Now: Somali Stories Through Art, the idea of connection was at its core. The exhibit, partially funded through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, runs from February 22–April 22 and will have an opening reception on March 3.

“The original inspiration behind [the exhibit] is to make the arboretum a more inviting and welcoming place to more people,” says Wendy DePaolis, curator of art and sculpture at the arboretum. “This will serve as a show to draw people in—not just the Somali community—but people interested in learning.”

The mediums of art and the stories being told are vast and varied, but all of the artists are from the Somali community. Aziz Osman and Ifrah Mansour are two of the featured artists. Mansour’s multimedia art tends to focus on her life and experiences. Osman, a painter, depicts beautiful, color-rich and abstract scenes of pre-war Somalia. Many of the artists are creating new pieces, specific to the show.

The exhibition will kick off with the opening reception, an event put on in collaboration with the Somali Museum. The reception will feature the dance troupe from the Somali Museum and traditional music, food and tea, among other special elements.

“We’re working closely with the Somali community,” DePaolis says. “This is very much a collaborative effort.” DePaolis hopes this is just the start of  a much deeper relationship. “We’re just putting our toe in the water,” she says.

Then and Now: Somali Stories Through Art opening reception. March 3 from 12–4 p.m. Free with arboretum admission.