LatestSix Holidazzled Mannequins Reflecting Time, Space, and Black Expression

The Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG) is the first Black museum in Minnesota. The fairly new 2018 museum has brought the Twin Cities of Minnesota a historical and creative stamp, and through the Black lens, supporting real stories from Minnesota’s Black community, suppressed national history, and beyond. MAAHMG collaborates with community leaders, paving the way for artists, activists, storytellers, historians, and more, to show up, take space, and amplify the Black voice. And this holiday, Alicia Smiley’s exhibit, for the second year in collaborating with the museum, has paved its way to the forefront of downtown Minneapolis.

“The themed trees, featuring stories of Black history and culture highlight the resilience in our communities and we hope our exhibit dazzles and adds some sparkle and shine to the 2021 holiday season.” – Tina Burnside, founder of MAAHMG

Alicia Smiley, local artist and event decorator, collaborated with the African American Heritage Museum and Gallery on the second annual hand-crafted holiday tree exhibit displayed downtown Minneapolis at the Meet Me Visitor Center. The exhibit, known as Soulful Holiday, features six festive mannequin trees symbolic to life and historical storytelling of different moments of time.

My personal life story relates to the gallery by overcoming adversities. Each tree speaks to a different part of my life that has shaped the person I am now. – Alicia Smiley

The six mannequins take about a week each to create, and each reflect their own story. Alicia explains how the stories behind each mannequin relate to her life in a unique way,

Royalty (left): Reminds me that we are and will always be royalty. This relates to my life in a way that reminds me to walk with my head held high and to remember that I am the product of kings and queens.

Power to The People (right): This tree means strength. It tells me to stand intense, fight for my rights, and know that together we are powerful.

Jumping the Broom (left): This tree speaks to the African American couple’s union. I am so appreciative of the love and union that I share with my husband black love is beautiful.

The Wiz Emerald City (right): This tree speaks to courage and choices. While making this tree, I felt so inspired to be courageous in my skills and abilities in knowing that I am capable, and I choose to be okay with allowing my art to speak freely.

The Museum Tree (left): This tree speaks to the museum providing a space that allows artists to display their art. This tree wears the t-shirt of the museum proudly to speak to who they are and what they stand for. This relates to my personal life by giving me the voice and the space I need to be creative, and,

Harlem Renaissance (right): This tree speaks to fashion, art, and music, all three things I love. Fashion gives you a glimpse of a person’s personality before you meet them, music soothes that soul, and art is an expression of anything and everything you can think of. This relates to my life in every way. I love fashion. I use music as inspiration to help me prepare and execute my art. Art is a universal language of creating something beautiful.

Alicia has been doing art for years, and mentions how even despite the internal chatter of discouragement many artists experience, she feels empowered and liberated through the expression and believes it is a universal connector tool between communities.

I was focused on telling a story of times that I could only dream of being a part of. I used that“want” as my strength to keep pushing forward and feel free and confident in my work. I would say to any artist that you can do anything you set your mind to. Anything is possible you just have to do it through fear and doubt you got this! – Alicia Smiley

The exhibit will be going through the holidays from November 2, 2021 through January 2, 2022, at 505 Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. You can also find the gallery online at the MAAHMG website.

 

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