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Ivy Vainio’s “Breaking Free” Exhibition Reception
Ivy Vainio’s photography exhibit entitled “Breaking Free” features racially diverse womxn from the Twin Ports and Indigenous Nations in Minnesota. Ten womxn share their stories of resistance, activism, cultural upbringing and the beauty, power and challenges that come from being racially diverse womxn in Minnesota through written narratives that accompany the photographs. The narratives reflect on their identities as racially diverse womxn and/or on their cultural upbringing. The pairing of personal narratives with Vainio’s images is an opportunity to experience cultural understanding.
Vainio is a proud African American and Grand Portage Ojibwe direct descendant photographer. She is self-taught and her focus is portraits, landscape/nature and diverse public events. Her photos have been featured in several galleries including the Minneapolis Institute of Art, permanent collections including the Tweed Museum of Art, and publications including Indian Country Today magazine, 2013 Russian Encyclopedia, and a Hungarian magazine. She works at the American Indian Community Housing Organization and is a Duluth Branch NAACP executive board member. She is a strong advocate for racial justice, equity and diverse representation within her community, education and the arts.
In this exhibition, I want to focus a shining beam of light on racially diverse womxn (of all ages) in strong leadership roles in activism, culture, family, and community. Many POC-I womxn and girls have much to celebrate individually and as a collective for being resilient and steadfast for their pursuit of higher education, equity, and finding themselves. We as womxn have barriers and challenges to overcome, such as racism, sexism, bullying, homophobia and other isms in Duluth and surrounding communities. Our presence and issues have been made invisible, and sometimes negatively visible, in the workplace, classroom, businesses, in the media, behind closed doors and right out in the open for others to view.
We grow weary of not being accepted or represented “at the table” in city-wide/educational institutions/local boards and foundations/upper management, especially when discussions and decisions made within those non-diverse circles pertain to us and our communities. If one of us happens to be “at the table” we are heard but not fully understood when the voices of White men and womxn are heard loud and clear and put into “best practices” or protocol.
Regardless of circumstances, we as POC-I womxn will continue to rise above, represent, contribute, and lead in the Twin Ports. We are resilient. We are here.
This event is part of a series of events and programming throughout 2019 dedicated to highlighting women’s stories, perspectives and experiences titled “The Year of the Womxn.”