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Moorhead museum celebrates military veteran and cultural representation in latest exhibits

A recent trip to the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County put some much-needed perspective back into my own reasons for the season, the first of which is a veterans exhibit that examines the process of healing through creativity and art-making.

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The "Warriors in the North: Healing Through Art" exhibit opened at the Hjemkomst Center in October. Lonna Whiting / The Arts Partnership

MOORHEAD —You hardly have to scroll, tap or swipe on your preferred social media network to read someone's favorite aunt’s screed of gratitude in honor of mittens, or which shelter is going to receive the Knutson family’s turkey dinner this year.

After all, it is the season of giving and gratitude.

Not that I’m discounting being thankful for mittens, nor am I dissuading anyone from donating mass quantities of comfort food. But a recent trip to the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County (HCSCC) put some much-needed perspective back into my own reasons for the season, the first of which is a veterans exhibit that examines the process of healing through creativity and art-making.

The second is Pangea 2021: Cultivate Our Cultures, an event now in its 27th year that brings together new Americans, immigrants and others from all over the world to celebrate cultural traditions, cuisine, dance, art and more.

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Dance is part of the Pangea event. Special to The Forum

What both have in common: They’re good reminders that art, performance and the act of simply gathering together have a fundamentally powerful way of creating connection.

Now that’s something to be grateful about.

Warriors in the North is ongoing at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, with a special event for veterans starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10. Stream Pangea online from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Both are free and open to the public.

'Warriors in the North: Healing Through Art'

On Wednesday, the eve of Veterans Day, HCSCC is hosting a performance component for "Warriors in the North: Healing Through Art," an exhibit of masks, photos, sculpture and personal narratives created by veterans of war.

The works were created by local veterans and directed by the Fargo VA Health Care System and the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County.

The exhibit actually opened at the museum in October and runs through March 6, 2022, but the special event this week is intended to connect veterans and their families with one another through their unique shared experience.

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HCSCC Executive Director Maureen Kelly Jonason said the performance has very limited, reserved seating available on Eventbrite, though anyone is welcome to livestream on YouTube , Facebook or Zoom.

“We’ve kept seating limited due to COVID concerns, but also so we have enough room for the veterans who have either participated in the project or are attending on their own,” Jonason said.

A main motif for the exhibit is masks. Many veterans participated in creating their own masks, all of which represent their own individual traumas faced both during and after a combat experience.

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One of the masks in the "Warriors in the North: Healing Through Art" exhibit at the Hjemkomst Center. Lonna Whiting / The Arts Partnership

Many masks include faces with dolls’ hands covering the mouths and eyes. One in particular shows a mask with its mouth covered and its eyes filled with little stones and pebbles, perhaps symbolizing the desire or expectation that veterans experiencing trauma need to just look away and not talk about it. A military plane is glued to the mask’s forehead like a memory of flight or fleeing.

The corresponding piece of writing composed by the veteran who created the mask says: “Part of me is healing with some things I can not speak about or see. I will never be whole but I will survive and speak out what I can to help others. I don’t want anyone to hurt like I did and still do.”

Jonason said special music has been composed to help represent the veterans’ pieces, which will be performed at the event. “Some veterans will be reading their own poetry and prose and some will have other people reading,” she said.

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Reserve tickets to the Veterans' Performance Showcase on Eventbrite , or join the webcast via Zoom or Facebook Live .

Pangea 2021 — Cultivate Our Cultures

We haven’t quite escaped quarantine life for this year’s Pangea event at the Hjemkomst Center on Nov. 13 , but Jonason and HCSCC Communications Manager Gabby Clavo said that even though it’s all virtual for the second year in a row, attendees are in for a treat.

“We try to get representation,” Joanson said. “Even though this year is online, we really do have a great lineup.”

From Dancers of India to Buffalo River Singers and Dancers, performers will be live from the museum to perform for the online audience.

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Buffalo River Singers and Dancers perform at a past Pangea event. Special to The Forum

A popular part of the event has always been the food. Since the event is virtual, taste-testing is not an option, so participants have compiled the next best thing: cooking demonstrations.

And despite the limitations of an online experience, the main message of Pangea remains the same: to highlight and celebrate the diversity of our communities in and around the Red River Valley.

“I think that what we've learned through COVID Is that we can still have a fun festival even if it's virtual, and people still find ways to get together,” Clavo said.

Join Pangea on Facebook Events , or visit HCSCC's YouTube channel .

Pangea is a community collaboration directed by Cultural Diversity Resources , New American Consortium for Wellness and Empowerment and the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County .

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An overhead view during a past Pangea event. Special to The Forum

Other exhibits at HCSCC

What: "Ihdago Manipi: Clay County at 150"

When: through Dec. 31, 2023

Where: 4th Floor Gallery

Info: “Ihdago Manipi explores the dramatic transformation that occurred in the early years of Clay County, Minnesota, including the arrival of railroads and immigrant families, the dispossession of indigenous people, an ecological revolution, and the construction of modern American life.” — HCSCC.

What: "New Nordic Cuisine"

When: Nov. 20, 2021, through March 7, 2022

Where: 3rd Floor Gallery

Info: "The influence of 'New Nordic Cuisine' can be seen in restaurants, farm-to-table efforts, and public policy around environment, agriculture, and nutrition. ... This movement reflects Nordic values of caring for the environment, promoting the health and wellbeing of all citizens, and celebrating the unique natural and cultural resources of the Nordic region." — Michael Tetzschner, president of the Nordic Council.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.

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