After 30 years of advocating for the inclusion of women and people of color in the arts — all while wearing big hairy gorilla masks and using the names of famous women artists as pseudonyms to maintain anonymity — the Guerrilla Girls' two-month Twin Cities Takeover of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, will conclude this Saturday with a grand finale multimedia performance at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.
"How can museums present the art of our time without including all the voices of our culture?" one of Guerrilla Girl's founding members, who goes by the name "Frida Kahlo," told NBC News. "When museums and galleries show mostly white males and not enough of everyone else, they're exhibiting the history of power — not the history of art. The Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover is an outpouring of art about social and political issues of all kinds, an unprecedented coming-together of artists, galleries, schools and museums."
Working with local artists and art institutions, the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover includes billboards with statistics on inclusion, analysis of current gallery collections, performances, installations, and exhibitions featuring and drawing attention to artists of color and women artists.
"The Guerrilla Girls have never done so many projects in one place at one time before," "Kahlo" said. "But our favorite thing is that so many exhibitions by other people are part of it. It's not just about us."
A video in the lobby of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) notes that although more Somalis and Hmong live in Minnesota than anywhere else in the U.S., only one artwork by a Somali artist and one by a Hmong artist are exhibited in the museum. In response, according to Kahlo, the MIA has already put up more work by artists of color.
One featured artist at the Concordia Gallery, which is also participating in the project, is contemporary Hmong artist Tcheu Siong, who, inspired by traditional Hmong quilting techniques, cuts fabric in the shapes of spirit figures she sees in dreams and appliques and embroideries them into textile art works.
Made Here, a project of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, is an urban walking gallery over 15 city blocks and features local Minnesota-based artists. It is also participating in the takeover — for the event, eight groups of teens worked over the past year to produce work to be displayed in the organization's window space.
"The work the teen groups created is incredible, inspired by the Guerrilla Girls' history of activism through the arts. Content includes teen homelessness, bullying, issues with gender assignment, feminism and more," Joan Vorderbruggen, cultural district arts coordinator of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, told NBC News. "We believe the opportunity for art to inspire awareness, conversations, and connections in the community is an important part of our more outfacing organization, and that providing opportunities for art to provoke is one of the many ways we can activate the canvas that is Hennepin Avenue."