Friday, May 08, 2009

NGEC Organization Fellow [MN]: Center for Hmong Arts and Talent

Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT) exists to nurture, explore and illuminate the Hmong American experience through artistic expressions. CHAT envisions a vibrant community where Hmong American artists are inspired to share their perspectives, valued for their creative contributions and empowered to challenge life’s boundaries. CHAT is a multi-disciplinary arts organization that engages different groups within the Hmong community through programs, including: Art Saves US (ASU), out of school program for youth to learn about themselves and different art forms in tandem; Youth Leadership Group (YLG), to gather future leaders around community issues; ICE Open Mic, to encourage talented individuals to test the performing waters; DabNeeg Dawning Theatre: Old Stories in a New Light, to develop skilled artists for theatre productions; Fresh Traditions Fashion Show, to highlight Hmong fashion designers; CHAT Radio, bringing the community the latest in arts, news and culture; and Annual Hmong Arts and Music Festival, showcasing and celebrating Hmong visual and performing artists.

At the moment, the core CHAT staff includes:

Kathy Mouacheupao, who has been the Executive Director since December 2005, but started her relationship with CHAT in 2001 as a contract artist to instruct the Video Poetry class. After graduating from Concordia University in 2001 with a BA in Education and a minor in Sociology, she took the position as the Outreach and Educator for Asian Women United of Minnesota (AWUM) and the House of Peace Shelter, a nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic violence. In 2003, she made the life-changing decision to continue her community work through the arts with CHAT. She believes that the arts focus on the positive and productive parts of the community and can be used as a vehicle to strengthen the community by addressing all issues experienced in life. In addition to her daily responsibilities, Kathy writes for Hmong Today Newspaper; is an active member of the Hmong Women's Giving Circle, and serves on the Steering Committee for TakeAction Minnesota.

Tou SaiKo Lee, who is a spoken word and hip hop artist/activist, born on a refugee camp in Thailand raised in New York and currently residing in Minnesota. He is the Coordinator of Creative Development and Outreach for the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT). He is part of a dynamic hip hop duo called Delicious Venom with his younger brother and lead MC for a socially conscious funk, hip hop band called PosNoSys: Post Nomadic Syndrome. He organizes a monthly all ages open mic event called I.C.E. Innovative Community Elevation. On special occasions, he teams up with his grandmother Youa Chang who does the traditional Hmong art of kwv txhiaj (Hmong Poetry Chanting) to form the group "Fresh Traditions." He has a passion for working with and mentoring youth at schools and community centers across Minnesota and California. He is also the co-founder of “The H Project” an Art for Social Change effort of a national music compilation CD inspired by the Human Right Violations of Hmong people in the jungles of Laos.

Angie Hardy. Hardy has been a freelance theatre artist in the Twin Cities for the past three years. Her primary field is in stage management, but she has also worked as a director, choreographer and set designer. In 1998, Angie co-founded the Two Time Theater Company, which wrote and produced 7 original productions. Since receiving her Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts from Augsburg College in 2003, Angie has worked with CLIMB Theatre, Stages Theatre Company, Stepping Stone Theatre Company, and Intermedia Arts. She has also done administrative and customer service work with corporations around the Twin Cities, but has since found a home with the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT). She stage managed CHAT's 2006 production of Hmong! The CIA's Secret Army and now works part-time to keep Hmong Artists connected to the arts community and the community at large.

CHAT's three NGEC leadership team members are Kathy Mouacheupao and Angie Hardy, as well as noted Hmong actress, artist, writer and activist, Katie Ka Vang:

Katie Ka Vang is a Hmong-American interdisciplinary artist who is a performer and writer. She has performed on stages around the Twin Cities, such as Pillsbury House Theater (Late Night Series), CHAT, Pangea World Theater, Mu Performing Arts, Intermedia Arts and Expose Brick Theater. She co-wrote and directed the play Myth of Xee and was a recipient of a Jerome Foundation Naked Stages grant to create a solo performance art piece called 5:1 Meaning of Freedom; 6:2 Use of Sharpening. She is also the recipient of a Artist Inititive poetry grant from the MN State Arts Board, helping her produce her first chapbook. Katie is serving her second term on CHAT’s Board of Directors and is involved with CHAT as a volunteer, artist and ASU instructor.

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