This past summer, local artists worked with children in Interfaith Action’s American Indian Youth Enrichment program to create “Mni Wiconi,” a one-of-a-kind art skill crane. The project had its debut Sunday, October 21, at Can Can Wonderland.
The interactive machine, which evokes the waves and flow of water, challenges players to try their skill at grabbing an art object, which the youth made from recycled and found items. Local artists worked with the youth over the summer to create the skill crane. Youth experimented with a variety of art styles and tools to build the project, connect with their cultures, and develop an expanded knowledge and appreciation for art.
The activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. It will remain permanently at Can Can Wonderland.
The art skill crane was one facet of the AIYE summer program. The program’s theme, “Mni Wiconi,” (“water is life”) was particularly relevant to the youth given the Dakota Access pipeline protests. Youth met with a graduate student of the University of Minnesota for a lesson on water treatment and took field trips to sacred sites, such as Minnehaha Falls and Bdote, where they picked up trash to repurpose for the skill crane.
American Indian Youth Enrichment is an after-school (for grades 1-5) and summer program (for grades 1-8) providing Indigenous cultural activities for Saint Paul youth. Youth learn from Indigenous leaders, gain awareness of their heritage and history, and receive culturally relevant educational support. Through participation, American Indian youth gain a strong Indigenous identity, become advocates for their culture, and succeed in school.