We’ve been working in North Minneapolis the past few weeks. A partnership with Northside Culture and the Center for Leadership and Neighborhood Engagement.

We installed our American Stories exhibit to set the stage for storytelling, then we held several community studios and invited people to respond to the question, “When have you found strength in the midst of struggle?”

People shared stories of losing loved ones. Of struggling to fit in. Of making the choice to show up when showing up was hard. And of being surrounded by encouragement and care.

One young man shared the story of losing his younger sibling to suicide. He showed me the semicolon tattooed on his hand and I was reminded of the symbolism of that punctuation. It is a mark to indicate a pause in a story, not the end of it. It’s encouragement to others that no matter how difficult things may be at the moment, that’s not the end of the story.

I am humbled and amazed at the vulnerability, beauty and wisdom people bring to the table when they are welcomed. We arrive for these studios with nothing but an invitation, and people show up.

People are hungry for connection, but the world doesn’t always offer us that opportunity. With just a little thought and intention, we can create that space for one another. We can open a door to a kind exchange. A meaningful conversation. A deep connection. We can let people know they are seen, heard and valued.

On Monday, we took down the American Stories exhibit and filled the gallery walls with prints of the local stories we had gathered in the community.

At the opening event on Tuesday night, I heard one person talk about walking into the gallery and standing face to face with their own portrait, larger than life. They said that tears welled up, because they felt like they had been seen.

I always say that this is public art and it only works when the public shows up. Thanks to everyone who showed up and shared their story. We are all better for it.

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