Arts reflect on human rights at Plains event

North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival attendees watch Emily Vieweg recite her poem 'Vision,' a reflection of the FMCT production of the Laramie Project. Emily Driscoll / The Forum

FARGO — After receiving harsh criticism on a poem she wrote, Emily Vieweg didn’t write again for a decade.

Vieweg was one of several featured artists who spoke at the North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival artist talk on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at the Plains Art Museum.

“My first writing poetry class in college, my instructor said, ‘I don’t know why you’re bothering to write because this is crap,’” poet Emily Vieweg said. “So, I quit writing for 10 years.”

Vieweg recently revisited poetry with newfound confidence and was commissioned to pen a reflection piece in response to the Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre’s production last fall of “The Laramie Project,” a play about the 1998 hate-crime murder of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard.


“This piece is a reaction to a hate crime against a gay man, who would be now my age. This is very close to me. We are not born hating the different. My poem is about opening our eyes,” Vieweg said, before reciting her poem to an audience of about 50 attendees.

Other artists at the festival addressed the Dakota Access pipeline protests, murdered and missing indigenous persons, police brutality and sexual assault. The event is designed to explore and discuss topics regarding human rights and social justice that are often ignored through a nonpartisan lens. It’s put on by the Human Family, an organization with a mission to change communities through art.

Each artist involved in the festival provides a unique perspective to the variety of humanitarian issues that persist around the globe. It includes 2-D, 3-D, experimental film and live performance works.

Every piece is constructed with the intention to bring awareness to human rights issues.

Today is the final day the exhibit is on display at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo. The show will move to the Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative on Friday, Feb. 1, then to the High Plains Fair Housing Center in Grand Forks on Monday, March 4.

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