As part of the NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley, two exhibitions will fill the ArtReach St. Croix galleries with poignant children’s book illustrations and beautiful wearable art.

Both exhibitions share the Hmong storytelling traditions at the root of their endurance and trajectory as a people. “Go Within and Go On” combine to connect visitors with Kao Kalia Yang’s memoir “The Latehomecomer,” this year’s featured book.

In the North Gallery, “Go Within” offers the opportunity to see original art from two of Kao Kalia Yang’s children’s books, according to a press release from ArtReach St. Croix.

Evocative and rich cultural imagery by debut illustrator Billy Thao shows the process of illustrating a book from original concept to the publication of Yang’s newest release.

“Yang Warriors” delivers an inspiring tale of resourceful children confronting adversaries with feats of compassion and courage.

First-generation Hmong American artist and illustrator, Xee Reiter, created work for Yang’s “The Shared Room.”

Reiter’s original watercolors and expressive drawings accompany the moving story of a Hmong American family living with love, loss, and moving forward.

“Go Within” is presented in partnership with the University of Minnesota Press. Fashion and clothes are synonymous with Hmong identity. “Go On,” curated by Ashaley Yang and Sai Chang, features a tribute showcase of traditional Hmong clothing from different decades and a collection of designs by Hmong American designers across the country that offers a modern take on the traditional.

“Go On illustrates the overarching themes of ‘The Latehomecomer’ through a fashion lens,” says curator Sai Chang. “This allows us to honor Hmong womxn/women and consider how we preserve identity and culture amidst change.”

Exhibited designers include Allkind by Khamphian Vang & Christina Vang, Maisee Heurh, Ka Oskar Ly, John Thao, Keng Xiong, Nonmala Xiong, and Ashaley Yang.

“Go Within and Go On opened to the public on Thursday, May 20, as part of the NEA Big Read Kick-off & Exhibition Opening, and the exhibit remain on view through June 27. The galleries at ArtReach St. Croix, 224 N. Fourth St. in Stillwater, are free and open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

The NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley exhibitions are co-sponsored by Foley Kalseim & Co. Ltd. and MidWestOneBank.

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley is presented by ArtReach St. Croix in conjunction with core program partners including Valley Bookseller, Marine Mills Folk School, Twin Cities PBS (TPT), Stillwater Public Library and other library branches located between St. Croix Falls, WI, and Hastings, MN.

“Go On” was made possible by loans and resources from the Center for Hmong Studies, Hmong Archives, and Hmong Cultural Center as well as mannequins from the Minneapolis Airport Foundation and Guthrie Theatre.

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