Beyond words: The Hmong Arts and Music Festival is Saturday

Thursday, August 20, 2009

By Susannah Schouweiler

Kao Lee Thao, "Ying" (from the "Inner Passion" collection), watercolor, 2009.

Did you know there's no Hmong word for "art"? I didn't either, until I ran across the press information about this Saturday's Hmong Arts and Music Festival in St. Paul. That linguistic blank spot is all the more surprising given the creative abundance in Hmong culture, which is notable for its vividly hued textiles, lively musical and theatrical forms, and a rich variety of visual-arts traditions.

The 8th annual incarnation of this festival, presented by the Center for Hmong Art and Talent (CHAT), celebrates these cultural traditions, old and new, with a daylong line-up of exhibitions and events showcasing the diverse talents of local Hmong artists.

The festival, playfully themed "No Word for Art," includes a parade to kick things off, a juried visual-arts exhibition, live performances throughout the day (featuring music, dance, and theater in both traditional and contemporary styles), a singer/songwriter competition, art-making workshops, and a number of games and activities for families and youth. I'm particularly eager to see the display of community-designed murals created for the "We Are Art" project.
Of course, you can't have a festival like this without the requisite food and drink vendors; plenty of bubble tea and other Hmong specialties will also be available on the festival grounds to keep you amply supplied with refreshments. (Speaking of food, apparently there's a cake-decorating contest, too -- something I find both mystifying and irresistible.)

The 8th Annual Hmong Arts and Music Festival will be held in the Western Sculpture Park (on Marion Street in St. Paul, across the street from Sears) on Saturday, Aug. 22, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.


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