While the assortment of handmade flags grew, and an occasional passer-by took up a paint brush to interpret “You/we are here” into their language, it’s less about art and “more about the people at the bus stop,” said Northeast artist/activist Witt Siasoco.
At Lowry and Central, CarryOn Homes is promoting filling out the census, particularly hoping to reach immigrants. Volunteer Alondra Garza said she has been handing out flyers, and finding “people are excited, they’re looking into the steps to register at home,” and some say they will come back with their kids to make some art.
Siasoco said, “Many are skeptical, obviously, of government, but people get that right away when they realize $28,000 leaves, [for every person who doesn’t do the census].”
Mohamed Barre, Northeast photographer from Somalia, stopped to talk to women in hijabs during our conversation.
“We have to be visible, we have to be counted. We have to count ourselves. We are here. It is one of our civil duties. We have to vote, and we have to be present.”
Asked if he thought the message is being carried back to immigrant communities, Barre said he believes “there is a gap. Some are saying they are excited about the count, but a silent majority is absent.” He had talked with a census door-knocker.
Kao Lee Thao, one of the artists whose work is prominently displayed on boards at the site, said she found that drawing on a small flag is a great entry point, “less intimidating” than even the square-foot fabric swatches offered.
Zoe Cinel, one of five artists from five different countries who make up CarryOn Homes, said they created the basic flag installation to represent “what would it look like, the experience of immigration. Never easy, a little messy.” People are encouraged to bring flags sewn at home; most who’ve contributed are friends of the artists.
She’s also been dropping off envelopes to nearby homes that contain supplies inviting residents to visit. They’ve scheduled to be at the site Tuesdays, Sept. 22 and 29, 4-6 p.m. and Saturday Sept. 26, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., and though after the census closes, Oct. 3, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
The project is funded by Windom Park Citizens in Action, the City of Minneapolis Arts Culture and Creative Economy and Hennepin County Commissioner Irene Fernando’s office with funding from Kresge Foundation.
The census cuts off September 30. For info on how to be counted, go to: my2020census.gov.
Below: Kao Lee Thao of Northeast made a design to hang on the line between the posts. Her works, Generations and The Woven Path, are prominent in the second photo. Then, from left, Witt Siasoco, Mohamed Barre, Alondra Garza and Zoe Cinel. Barre’s 2007 photos are his daughters in traditional garb inside, and in their Hannah Montana shirts outside, showing the duality of cultures children are growing up with. (Photos by Margo Ashmore)