Underwood woman, Nancy XiáoRong Valentine, was chosen to participate in Springboard for the Arts’ “Artists Respond: Equitable Rural Future” program, supported by the Blandin Foundation which selected a handful of artists across rural Minnesota, giving precedence to people of color, the disabled population, and other minority groups residing in rural areas.
Valentine’s body of work, “The Audacity to be Asian in Rural America: we owe you no apologies” is currently on display at the Otter Tail County Historical Society through June 19. The collection is composed of 12 watercolor and Chinese ink scroll paintings on rice paper. The art tells a visual story of Valentine’s maternal side of the family, the Hao family’s Chinese American immigrant experience in rural western Minnesota. The project is deeply personal and has been a lifetime in the making, now coming to fruition as the pandemic resulted in Valentine becoming acutely aware of her grandparents’ age.
In addition to her exhibit, Valentine has organized a listening circle that will accompany an artist talk on June 16 from 3-5 p.m. at the Otter Tail County Historical Society. “Rooted in Indigenous cultures, Listening Circles are an opportunity for speakers to share with others in a safe environment,” explained Valentine. “They are often used for storytelling in a way that invites others in to share an empathetic connection and develop further shared understanding.” Also speaking at the listening circle are musician, Conor Lee, and Intersectional Resources LLC, founder, Katherine Dachtler, former Fergus Falls residents of Asian descent. The listening circle will be open to the public and will offer refreshments from local Asian caterers and a special tea sourced from Valentine’s mother’s home city of Lan Zhou, Gansu, China.
“It’s my hope that this exhibition and event will encourage more community dialogue about diversity, equity and inclusion in rural communities.”