‘The power of art’

In her latest art show, Tina Anderson Richards of Walnut Grove has a mix of Hmong and European heritages and cultures.

Anderson Richards’ exhibit “Many Dreams – One Hope” will be on display through May 24 at the Marshall Area Fine Arts Council’s arts center.

For the last three decades, Anderson Richards has been a visual artist in the Walnut Grove area. She graduated from Walnut Grove High School, spent three years in the Army, has a bachelor of arts in art from Southwest Minnesota State University and a master of arts in teaching from Mankato State University. She has taught art at the Westbrook-Walnut Grove School District since 2002.

Throughout her artistic career, Anderson Richards has used several mediums – print making, pencil, weaving and many forms of willow. She recently has gotten into digital photography, and her exhibit at MAFAC has a visual emphasis, which includes intaglio prints, pencil drawings, large format photographs and a story cloth. Anderson Richards describes it as a historical type of show.

“(It’s) where I show my family history and the new history with the Hmong families,” Anderson Richards said. The photographs are of students, farmers, gardeners, and many of them are manipulated, she said. “To get a message across, I manipulated them.”

Back in 2004 is when the first Hmong families started attending school in the WWG district, she said.

“I was drawn to the Hmong culture, the hospitality and the strong ties they hold for the land,” Richards said in her artist statement. “The arrival of our Hmong families has not been without difficulty. Mistrust, difficulty in transition to rural Minnesota and some clash of culture and religion have opened me to use the power of art to help people see that we are more alike than different and have more in common than most imagine.”

Anderson Richards said she found herself in a unique position and opportunity to make an artistic translation of the theme of Hmong and European heritage and culture as they moved from their ancestral homes to southwest Minnesota.

“Maybe they want their children raised a certain way or they’re getting away from some kind of discrimination,” Anderson Richards said.

In the last year, Anderson Richards designed a story cloth of her grandparents’ history, which was stitched together by a Hmong woman from the community.

“It was the melding of our two cultures together,” Anderson Richards said. The Hmong story cloth tells about the history of the people. In Anderson Richards’ story cloth, she tells about her grandparents.

“That’s something in me,” she said. Anderson Richards said she does genealogy and has traced her family back to England in the 1500s.

Anderson Richards said she’s continually looking back on her other photographs to see if they “speak” to her, to share what they’re saying.

“The biggest thing is it’s also ongoing,” she said.