“We Are Still Here” Artist Cohort

About the Cohort

We Are Still Here is a multiyear collaborative partnership between the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) and Hennepin Theatre Trust to bring large-scale, high-profile public artworks to the Hennepin Theatre District and the American Indian Culture Corridor. This ongoing and evolving initiative seeks to match emerging Native artists with established Native arts mentors in an extending fellowship that creates a variety of public art works which promote Native and Indigenous storytelling in the community along Hennepin Avenue and throughout the greater Twin Cities metro area.

This season’s artist mentor is Courtney Cochran who will lead the artists cohort which includes Loriene Pearson (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska), Tamara Aupaumut (Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican, Oneida, Brothertown), Aiyana M Kline (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians), and Olivia Seone Stern (Mississippi band of Choctaw, and Carib Kalinago).

For the development of the We Are Still Here initiative, All My Relations Arts partnered with Hennepin Theatre Trust to co-develop and implement a nine-month learning cohort featuring four Native American artists. Under the mentorship of multimedia artist Courtney Cochran this cohort will focus on the process, practice and techniques which make up public/community art. Through implementing a practice based in community care, community listening and responsiveness, the medium of community art is characterized by dialogue with the community and often involving a professional artist collaborating with people who may not otherwise engage in the arts. The work of community artists is designed to inform, engage, provoke, inspire and reflect. 

Evolving out of the idea of cultural democracy and a socially engaged practice, community art helps bring about an awareness and appreciation of art to as wide a section of society as possible; and to break down the boundaries to make art accessible to a wider audience. Rooted in engaging the community and listening to the community’s needs, this style of art is deeply collaborative, and at its core cultural seeks to unite people, be a social response, and tell a story, often outside the realms of traditional art spaces – i.e. public spaces. 


We Are Still Here amplifies the voices and presence of Native people of Minnesota in the life, culture, art, and activation of Hennepin Avenue & the American Indian Cultural Corridor highlighting Native visibility through uplifting Native voices, highlighting Native truth-telling, and changing the narrative of Minnesota Native Peoples. This program seeks to broaden and promote the awareness of Native people as active and relevant in contemporary times, as well as introduce and educate Native artists on the processes of creating public art, while establishing a sustainable framework for ongoing engagement in Hennepin Theatre Trust with the Native American community in Minnesota.

With sage advice, mentorship, and teaching by an experienced artist with an emphasis in community art, artists will gain tools, expand their learning, and implement their training through a series of projects. The program culminates in a final cohort capstone project reflecting the cohort’s artistic progression and prepping them for the advancement of their careers in this medium. 


"We Are Still Here" 2023-2024 Artist Cohort. Photo: Lucas Wells, Hennepin Theatre Trust

Artist and Mentor Collaboration

Each cohort works closely with their mentor, Hennepin Theatre Trust and NACDI over the course of several months to create a learning experience tailored to their individual styles, goals and needs as artists. The artists and their mentor will work and learn together, creating in an artistic medium individual to each cohort; this year the artists will be creating community art, but past cohorts have designed murals, digital artwork, animations and projections.

The cohort experience culminates in a final capstone project of their own choosing, allowing the artists to take the skills and resources they have gained and move their work to the next level. Aside from the technical aspects of developing public art, We Are Still Here is meant to equip the artists to generate opportunities for community engagement beyond the artists themselves. Each capstone project reflects the unique nature of the artist’s exploration of Native Truth-Telling as it intersects with their intended location, supplying a platform which allows them to create engaging and though-provoking public art that boldly reimagines and restores historical and contemporary narratives which have been subjugated or otherwise minimized and negated.

We Are Still Here is a catalyst that weaves Native and Indigenous culture back into Hennepin Avenue, connecting the district’s community to arts and cultural experience to its past in unexpected and profound ways.



Meet the 2023-2024 "We Are Still Here" Cohort

I am so honored to be selected as the mentor for the third We Are Still Here cohort. I am excited to share the knowledge and skills I’ve gained over the years of being an artist in community. Community has always been important to me and a huge factor in finding and developing myself as an artist, reconnecting to my culture and finding lots of chosen family. I admire each of the cohort members as individuals and artists and honored to learn from them as well. My goal is to be a good relative, to hold space for others, and to collectively build and strengthen reciprocal relationships that extend past any project timeline.”

“Hennepin Theatre Trust is immensely proud to partner with NACDI once again to uplift Native and Indigenous voices through our We Are Still Here initiative. I look forward to seeing this year’s cohort of artists grow their skills and express their experiences to a broader community. Now more than ever it is important to continue to weave Native and Indigenous culture back into the fabric of Hennepin Avenue, enabling public art and placemaking efforts that recognize our past and connect our arts and cultural experiences to their roots.”


Aiyana Kline

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Loriene Pearson

Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska

Olivia Seone Stern

Mississippi band of Choctaw, and Carib Kalinago

Tamara Aupaumut

Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican, Oneida, Brothertown

2022-2023 Cohort Capstone Project

Bde Maka Ska Pavillion Mural*

WASH cohort artists Jearica Fountain, Racquel Banaszak, and Summer Cohen working on the install of the “Mitákuye Owásiŋ/ Indinawemaaganidog (We Are All Related)” mural. Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.

*This project was made in partnership with Hennepin Theatre Trust, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board,  and All My Relations Arts, a project of the Native American Community Development Institute. 

Mitákuye Owásiŋ/ Indinawemaaganidog (We Are All Related)

Artists: Racquel Banaszak, Summer Cohen, Jearica Fountain, and mentor Thomasina TopBear

“Mitákuye Owásiŋ/ Indinawemaaganidog (We Are All Related)” at the Bde Maka Ska Pavilion site. Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.

The mural located on the shore of Bde Maka Ska is a celebration of Indigenous health and well-being. The water, earth, plant medicines, and the cosmos inform our worldviews. It features running, biking, and canoeing. The cityscape honors today’s large urban Native community, while the tipis recognize the ancestral homelands of Dakhóta Oyate and the village of Maḣpiya Wic̣aṡṭa (Cloud Man) which was once along the lakeshore.The design of the mural was influenced by a public survey, where participants expressed their desire to see floral and fauna of the area, scenes of health, and a way to honor Native people.

The main scene of the mural features a woman running in a red dress and moccasins in remembrance of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR). A man in traditional dance regalia is riding a bike being chased by a rez dog.At the center two people are seen paddling a canoe in the night. The Big Dipper and a full moon are important to Dakhóta stories. The sweetgrass braid which surrounds this scene represents the hair of Uŋčí Makhá (Dakota earth spirit), and the braiding symbolizes the love and care we give to our communities.

The area is part of the Mississippi Flyway, an important migration path in Turtle Island (North America). Red-wing blackbirds, cranes, cardinals, and ducks are beloved winged relatives. The goldfinch is an important keeper of the Ojibwe language. Bald eagles are spiritually significant to Native people. Butterflies teach young children to move. Dragonflies remind us that water is life. 

Being a good relative is essential to our wellbeing. We honor the future where Indigenous cultures, languages, and stories are celebrated. 

“Mitákuye Owásiŋ/ Indinawemaaganidog (We Are All Related)” at the Bde Maka Ska Pavilion site. Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.




Partner: Hennepin Theatre Trust

Hennepin Theatre Trust drives cultural and economic vitality in Minnesota through leadership of the dynamic Hennepin Theatre District in downtown Minneapolis and educational programming that reaches every area of the state. Its historic theatres — Orpheum, State and Pantages — and event center at 900 Hennepin Avenue light up Hennepin Avenue with top-tier entertainment, including the best of Broadway and a wide variety of arts programming. Hennepin Theatre Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Learn more at HennepinTheatreTrust.org.

This activity is made possible by voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.