The collaborative, international project, 122 Conversations continues its journey to the five sister cities of Duluth encouraging cross cultural dialogue and serving as a catalyst for positive social change, the radical political act of caring. The project, led by artist Anne Labovitz isbased on the art of engagement — art derived from the process of interconnection and cross-cultural dialogue. Organized by the Tweed Museum of Art and in collaboration with Duluth Sister Cities, International and University of Minnesota Duluth, School of Fine Arts, the project celebrates the combined 122 years of relationship with Duluth’s five sister Cities: Rania, Iraqi Kurdistan, Växjö, Sweden, Petrozavodsk, Russia, Thunder Bay, Canada and Ohara-Isumi City, Japan.
Two of the planned six exhibitions ran concurrently in early 2017, the first in Rania, Iraqi Kurdistan. The entire exhibition was created on lightweight Tyvek® and packed in a single suitcase and hand carried by DSCI delegate Michelle Obed to Rania. The project opened on January 16 at the University of Raparin during a well attended event and continued through the end of March. ‘Choices’, an engagement piece to be included in all locations, contributes conversations from citizens of each city in the form of drawings or words on colorful tiles created by Labovitz. These tiles from all 5 cities will travel to Duluth, be added to the ones contributed by citizens of Duluth and be on display for the culminating event in the Fall of 2018. In addition to Michelle Obed, DSCI delegates who traveled to Iraq include Gale Kerns, Jeri Kerns, Koresh Lakhan and Jill Lakhan.
Labovitz was on hand for the opening at the Växö Konsthall in Växjö, Sweden on March 4, 2017 as well as DSCI delegate Alison Aune, PHD Area Chair in Art Education. In the days following the Växjö opening, Labovitz facilitated multiple workshops every day. These workshops continued even after her departure facilitated by local art and education professionals. Children, students, adults and new immigrant families to Sweden all contributed to the engagement piece, ‘Choices’ in their unique ways. The exhibition concluded on April 3, 2017. In addition to Alison Aune, DSCI delegates who traveled to Sweden were Terese Tomanek, Gary Anderson, Gary Boelhower, John Schmidt, Chelly Townsend and Patti Maguire.
The most recent exhibition has recently concluded in Petrozavodsk, Russia. The Russian installation opened on May 25 and continued through June 17, 2017 at Petrozavodsk City Exhibition Hall. The site specific pieces were again hand carried into the country by a DSCI representative, Devan Burnette. Dan Nolan, Assistant Professor Foreign Languages and Literature, at the University of MN was instrumental in identifying Devan and a wonderful liaison for the project. Labovitz was able to attend the opening through virtual means, addressing the crowd via Skype. Several art workshops were conducted with adults, youth and students with the help of the staff at the exhibition hall and local art teachers. Many more Choices tiles were added to the growing collection and will be exhibited in Duluth next year!
The Ohara Isumi-City opening is tentatively set for November 2017 and the culminating archive exhibition is scheduled for September 25 – December 31, 2018 at the Tweed Museum of Art. 122 Conversations had its inaugural opening in 2015 in Thunder Bay at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.
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