Dessa – In Her Own Words

September 9, 2021 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

2021-2022 Friends Kick-Off Lecture, Thursday Sept. 9, 11:00 a.m. CST via Zoom

Dessa is a rapper, singer, writer and member of the Minneapolis-based hip-hop collective Doomtree. Dessa has been on the Billboard charts and has performed with the Minnesota Orchestra, VocalEssence (a premier choral music organization) and contributed to the #1 album, The Hamilton Mixtape. Showcasing her creative chops, she released during the first half of 2021 a series of singles called IDES on the 15th of each month. About the fifth installation, “Talking Business,” Dessa said, “I wanted to make a song that unfolded like a little film where the plot was revealed in a series of objects and still images…To try to build a story in a flash of snapshots, I wrote a song without using any verbs.” 

Yes, Dessa is an inventive musician–and she is also a consummate communicator about a wide range of topics including art, science and entrepreneurship. 

Her wit and candor are revealed in keynote speeches, NPR broadcasts, and a podcast that she hosts entitled “Deeply Human.” She’s written articles for the New York Times and National Geographic Traveler and published a memoir in essays, My Own Devices in 2018. During the pandemic year, Dessa released a clever lyric video about Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. 

She’s even given a TED Talk about the brains of people in love and how she worked with a neuroscientist to get out of love.

In short, Dessa is hard to define but infinitely interesting!

You don’t want to miss this exclusive virtual event. Friends members have access to presale tickets starting on August 16 and tickets are limited.

To reserve your free tickets and receive the Zoom link, go to ticket.artsmia.org or call 612-870-3000.


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2021-22 Lecture Series

Ticket Price: Free

Lecture Series presented by Friends of the Institute with generous support from the Mark and Mary Goff Fiterman Fund

Please note: The September, October, November and December 2021 lectures will be VIRTUAL, held on Zoom. It is expected that in-person events will begin in January 2022.

September 9, 2021 (VIRTUAL)

Dessa: Singer, rapper, writer, activist

October 14, 2021 (VIRTUAL) 

Aaron Spangler: Sculptor and printmaker

Amy Thielen: Award-winning chef

November 11, 2021 (VIRTUAL)

Tova Brandt: Executive Director, The Museum of Danish America

December 9, 2021 (VIRTUAL)

Rose B. Simpson: Mixed-media artist, Santa Clara Pueblo

January 20, 2022 (Centennial Anniversary Kick-off)

Eike Schmidt: Director of the Uffizi Museum, Florence, Italy

February 10, 2022

Rohan Preston: Writer and critic at the Star Tribune

March 10, 2022

Seitu Jones: Multidisciplinary artist, community organizer

April 14, 2022

Patrick Noon: Former senior paintings curator at Mia

May 12, 2022

Anna Jackson: Keeper of Asian Department, Victoria & Albert Museum, London


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Friends Only Lecture Results

Lecture Committee wraps up an interesting year!

In a year like no other, the Lecture Committee did a quick pivot to the digital world of Zoom. Between adjustments to contracts, rescheduling speakers, and learning how to present an engaging virtual lecture, we managed a fairly good year. A big thank you to our fabulous Mia technology team, Mike Dust, Brian Tighe, and Jeff Kearns who made sure we were able to zoom out to our audience.

You may be wondering what our participation numbers looked like this year. September 2020 through May 2021, registration for tickets was on average between 220 and 330 per month, with one lecture going as high as 408 registrants. However, we had a 25-40% drop off in terms of people who actually dialed into the lecture. According to Learning Innovation, this is quite common for virtual events and is not a bad drop-off (usually due to forgetfulness, other conflicts, and the lack of repercussions to not dialing in for a free event). These numbers are comparable to our in-person lecture events at Mia!

Though many of us would prefer to have been in the Pillsbury Auditorium with our Friends, we were able to extend our reach outside of the Twin Cities, nationally and even internationally, with people calling in from Argentina, Ecuador, and India.  Plus, no one had to go out on a cold, snowy winter day! Thanks to everyone who attended. 

“Indigenous Photography: The importance of Self Representation in the Native American Community.”

May 13, 2021 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

Join us as artist Cara Romero presents our May lecture.

“My greater intention is to create critical visibility for modern Natives, to get away from that one-story narrative, and to dig into our multiple identities.  Our stories are entrenched in our ancestry, and traditional ways of knowing, and how they manifest today, that’s what’s important to me.”  – Cara Romero

Cara Romero, a Chemehuevi artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico, known for her dramatic digital photography that examines Indigenous life through a contemporary lens, is our Friends Lecture Series speaker for May.

Ms. Romero was born in Inglewood, California, and grew up between the rural Chemehuevi reservation in the Mojave Desert of California and the urban sprawl of Houston, Texas. Her identity informs her photography, a blend of fine art and editorial styles, shaped by years of study and a visceral approach to representing Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural memory, collective history, and lived experiences from a Native American female perspective.

Romero has made an ongoing series of First American Girl portraits to examine past representations of Indigenous women as dolls and reclaim their Native identities. The portraits are of real Native American women, photographed in life-sized doll boxes and include personal accessories.


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Cara Romero gets away from that “one story narrative of Native Americans” with “Water Memory,” 2015 that is part of a series of photographs that talks about twin histories: The flooding of tribal lands to construct US dams; and the pumping of resources from Native soils, by extractive industries.  She is from a tribe that was flooded out of ancestral lands to create Lake Havasu, a reservoir on the Colorado River between Colorado and Arizona.  This series was pivotal for Romero because it brought her work to the attention of the Smithsonian.  After that, her art became an examination of things that were important to her- things that scared her, but she knew to be true.  She started working with female figures.  She wanted to break through the exploitative white male lens that had dominated Native American photography for over 100 years.

The National Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the American Museum of Britain all hold her work in their collections.  She has won multiple first-place awards at the Santa Fe Indian Market.  In 2019, Ms. Romero was an artist in residence at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  In addition to her work as a photographer, Romero directs the Indigeneity Program at Bioneers, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Fe that is dedicated to climate change issues.

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Friends welcome celebrated writer, educator, and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams 

April 8, 2021 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

Join us for a reading and discussion led by Deborah Karasov of Great Plains Institute, a national policy organization for a net carbon future.

Terry Tempest Williams

Terry Tempest Williams, a naturalist and fierce advocate for freedom of speech has consistently shown us how environmental issues are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice. Williams, like her writing, can be hard to categorize. She has testified before Congress on women’s health issues, been a guest at the White House, has camped in the remote regions of Utah and Alaska and worked as a ‘barefoot artist’ in Rwanda.

Known for her impassioned and lyrical prose, Ms Williams is the author of several environmental classics including Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, When Women Were Birds and The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of American’s National Parks in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service. Her most recent book, Erosion: Essays of Undoing is a collection of wide-ranging essays that explore the many forms of erosion we face: of democracy, science, compassion, trust.

In 2006, Williams received the Robert Marshall Award from the Wilderness Society, their highest honor given to an American citizen. She has also received the Sierra Club’s John Muir Award honoring a distinguished record of leadership in American conservation, the 2017 Audubon New York Award for environmental writing, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in creative nonfiction, among others. In 2009, TTW was featured in a Ken Burns’ PBS series on the national parks. 

Ms Williams is currently writer-in-residence at the Harvard Divinity School and her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Orion Magazine and numerous anthologies worldwide as a crucial voice for ecological consciousness and social change.

In her words, “ I write about culture, I write about landscape, I write about public lands, I write about family. More than anything I hope that I’m writing about what it means to be human in a just society.”

Reserve your tickets online, or by calling 612.870.3000

This event is a Friends Only Event. Join the Friends today and attend the event!

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In Discussion with Nell Irvin Painter: Historian and Artist

March 11, 2021 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

Join us a for a engaging discussion with this prolific author, artist and scholar.

Nell Irvin Painter had a very successful career as a leading United States historian. She earned her doctorate in history from Harvard University and honorary degrees from Wesleyan, Dartmouth, SUNY-New Paltz and Yale. She taught for several decades at Princeton University and along the way became a noted and award-winning scholar, lecturer and author. Her recent books include “The History of White People” (2010), “Creating Black Americans: African American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present” (2006) and “Southern History Across the Colored Line” (2002). 

When she retired from academia, Painter was the Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton University. She then bravely switched gears at the age of 67 and pursued a degree in studio art from Rutgers University and a Master in Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. 

Nell Irvin Painter, the historian became Nell Painter, the artist. As Dr. Painter puts it, “After a life of historical truth and political engagement with American Society, my artwork represents freedom. Including the freedom to be totally self-centered.”

With her thesis project, “Art History According to Nell Painter,” she used collage to take images of figures from black history, attaching bold and abstract patterns and distorting them with digital photo manipulation tools and text – thus converging art with history. Self-portraiture is central to Painter’s art. Using found images and digital manipulation, she re-envisions herself through self portraits. Mia owns Painter’s “You Say This Can’t Really Be America” 2017, Color inkjet print with screen printing on paper.

Since embarking on her artistic career, Painter has garnered shows, fellowships and residencies. In January 2020, Painter was appointed Chair of the MacDowell Board of Directors. Located in Peterborough NH, MacDowell is one of the country’s leading contemporary arts organizations. MacDowell awards more than 300 competitive Fellowships working in seven disciplines each year. Painter herself is a two-time MacDowell Fellow, in 2016 and 2019.

Nell Irvin Painter, scholar and artist, is a shining example of, “It’s never too late.”

Reserve your tickets online, or by calling 612-870-3000.

April is Environment Awareness Month so make sure to save the date for the Friends April 8th Lecture, “A Morning Conversation with Terry Tempest Williams”

This event is a Friends Only Event. Join the Friends today and attend the event!

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The February lecture features Whitney curator Marcela Guerrero

February 21, 2021 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

“Latinx Art: An American Artistic Force”

Marcela Guerrero

Join us as we welcome Marcela Guerrero, Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum in New York, as she presents Latinx Art: An American Artistic Force. Dr. Guerrero was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She received her BA from the University of Puerto Rico and holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Her passion for major movements in Latin American art, including the muralists and artists such as “Los Tres Grandes,” Diego Rivera, Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco led her to help organize the exhibition: Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945, now on display at the Whitney Museum. 

The exhibition, demonstrating the cross-cultural exchange that came to influence artists of the period, including Thomas Hart Benton, Philip Guston, and Jackson Pollock, makes a case for the idea of a pan-American art (bridging North and South American cultures). 

Guerrero also worked previously as a Curatorial Fellow at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, where she assisted in a ground-breaking 2017 exhibition called Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985. highlighting Latin American and Latinx art in Los Angeles and elsewhere in Southern California. 

With an awareness of systemic inequalities, Guerrero has stated, “It is not so much a mark that I would like to leave in the art world.  I would be happy to just push the art world, at least in the U.S., to be more of a reflection of the people who are right outside the steps of our institutions.” 

Like the rest of us, Dr. Guerrero is not traveling in this time of pandemic.  But what a wonderful opportunity we have to get a taste of the remarkable Latin American art she brings to us virtually on February 11th.  You won’t want to miss it.

Reserve your tickets online, or by calling 612-870-3000.

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January Lecture

January 14, 2021 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

“Beyond Dürer: Becoming a Museum Director” is our first lecture of 2021

Dr. Katherine (Katie) Luber became the new director of Mia just one year ago in January. Luber, who goes by “Katie”, will share her journey to becoming a museum director. It began at Bryn Mawr with her Ph.D. dissertation on Albrecht Dürer’s paintings, and continued with a wide range of experiences, including work at the  Philadelphia Museum of Art and teaching at the University of Texas Austin, followed by an M.B.A. at Johns Hopkins University. Along the way, she founded and managed The Seasoned Palette, a successful start-up company that she ultimately sold before becoming the director of the San Antonio Museum in Texas. 

Katie’s determination and creative thinking allowed the San Antonio Museum of Art to substantially increase its membership and community reach, while also expanding its collection and breadth of exhibitions. That experience will be valuable as Mia continues to grow as an art museum in which everyone can learn about diverse cultures as well as see and engage with their own history. A fun fact about Katie’s own history is that although she is a 5th generation Texan on her father’s side, her great, great grandmother on her mother’s side emigrated from Norway and ended up in Minnesota. 

Katie has noted, “Throughout my career, I have demonstrated the importance and power of art to impact people and communities.” Her first year has been a baptism by fire with the pandemic and all the urban unrest in the community. She has spent the past year discovering the colorful mosaic of the Twin Cities communities. Katie finds it sad that the country is so divided and that there aren’t many places where we can have conversations. She sees the museum as one of those places to address those much-needed topics. 

David Wilson, President of Mia’s board described Katie as having “an authentic, passionate vision for how art can engage, educate, and delight us all.” Please join us as we kick off a fresh new year! “Zoom in” on January 14th to learn more about Albrecht Dürer, Katie Luber’s journey, and her vision for Mia.

Reserve your tickets online, or by calling 612-870-3000.

December Friends Lecture

December 10, 2020 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

The December lecture features architect Sam Olbekson

In the Anishinaabe language, there is no word for “architecture” or even “art” because they believe that art, beauty, function are not separate concepts but interwoven into daily life. In other words, everything is related.

Sam Olbekson is Principal of Native American Design at the national architectural firm Cunningham Group and founder of Full Circle Indigenous Planning. He has spent more than 20 years working with Native American clients on culturally significant planning and design. Sam brings the perspective of a member of the White Earth Nation of Ojibwe who grew up in Native communities. The Anishinaabe are a culturally related indigenous people and the Ojibwe are a specific Anishinaabe nation.

As a youth with a strong interest in art and social issues, Olbekson’s Native American mentor encouraged him to consider architecture, believing it may be a way to contribute to Native culture and community building. An Ojibwe language teacher gave him the Ojibwe phrase to describe his profession that translates to, “I draw the houses, the ones that will be built, for my work.”

Olbekson often reconciles dualities. For example, he was the lead architect for the $110 million casino and hotel in the Cherokee River Valley that will have a lasting impression of the region on millions of visitors for years to come. A typical casino with Native looking symbols doesn’t honor anything so Olbekson tried to find form and aesthetics in deeper cultural places. He connected the mountain landscape and sense of place with the excitement a casino is meant to evoke, while honoring the Cherokee culture. His goal is to help Native communities in their economic development projects to ensure design and planning is done in a culturally appropriate way. 

Olbekson has worked on many economic growth and community building projects. Among them is the decade-long ongoing development of the American Indian Cultural Corridor that has transformed a decaying neighborhood into a safe and vibrant cultural destination with Native housing, stores, eateries and art galleries. Take Migizi Communications, a 40-year-old nonprofit organization that nurtures the development of Native American youth and is full of the energy, hope and spirit of the community’s future. Olbekson was a graduate of the program himself. The organization recently purchased and renovated a small building after a long capital campaign. Olbekson “was honored to design the space as a pro bono effort to say thank you for the personal impact they had on me as a youth.” 

Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the building that was located a block from the 3rd Precinct police station during the protests and ensuing destruction over George Floyd’s death. It was a sad and devastating loss, but the community is determined to rebuild. 

As they and other businesses in the Twin Cities rebuild, what should be on the forefront as architects and designers reimagine their communities? How can buildings and neighborhoods be designed to encourage equity, celebrate cultural identity, honor diversity while challenging divisive structural systems? Perhaps the word “placemaker” fits here. A placemaker works on the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to the health and well-being of the community. This architect sees his role as placemaker with a vision for an equitable and just future.

Reserve your tickets online, or by calling 612-870-3000.

Save the date for January lecture

January 14, 2021 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

Kick-Off the New Year with a Friends Lecture! 

Dr. Katherine Luber, Executive Director of Mia, will present “Beyond Durer: Becoming a Museum Director,” introducing attendees to Albrecht Dürer, the artist who was the subject of her dissertation.  Tickets are available to Friends members on December 15, and to the general public on December 17. Reserve online, or by calling 612-870-3000.