Minnesota’s Hmong Community And North House Folk School
By Helen Yuen
PBS Premiere Of Craft In America’s New Season
November 2022 (Digital Release)
December 16, 2022, 9pm and 10pm (PBS Broadcast Premiere)
Minnesota’s North House Folk School and St. Paul’s Hmong community are featured in the newest season of Craft in America, the Peabody Award-winning documentary series on PBS discovering the beauty, significance, and relevance of handmade objects and the artists who make them. The new episodes showcasing Minnesota artists are entitled INSPIRATION and HOME, streaming on the digital platforms of PBS and Craft in America in November 2022, with a broadcast premiere on PBS December 16 at 9pm and 10pm, respectively (check local listings). The highlighted Minnesota organization in the INSPIRATION episode is the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. The HOME episode honors Hmong artists Suzanne Thao, Tousue Vang, Chef Yia Vang, and Mandora Young.
|INSPIRATION premieres during the holiday season when inspiration and human authenticity are at the fore. Fittingly, INSPIRATION visits communities and distinguished artists of varied disciplines impacting new generations of makers through their work. The featured artists and organizations are Diedrick Brackens (Los Angeles, CA), Hmong Community – Suzanne Thao, Tousue Vang, Chef Yia Vang, and Mandora Young (St. Paul, MN), Ayumi Horie (Portland, ME), Maddy Inez Leeser, Mary Little, Simon Rodia and the Watts Towers, Alison Saar, and Betye Saar (all of Los Angeles, CA).|
The episode elaborates on the significant impact of immigrants on American creative culture, focusing in particular on the Hmong community of St. Paul, Minnesota. Viewers learn how the ancient practice of paj ntaub embroidery is an artistic and economic foundation for the Hmong, and how their culture continues to thrive and evolve.
- Suzanne Thao is a master maker and instructor in the tradition of paj ntaub (“flower cloth”), a needlework technique practiced by Hmong women. Thao began learning the technique at age 7 from her grandmother, mother, and aunts. She has now been practicing and teaching this technique for over 50 years. Deeply committed to preserving Hmong art, Thao has shared the technique with her daughter, Chuayi Yang, and is the inaugural instructor of Project Paj Ntaub, the free monthly paj ntaub workshop offered through the Hmong Museum in St. Paul, MN.
- Tousue Vang is a Hmong American, storyteller, and image maker who has worked in the field for over ten years. Growing up, Vang was surrounded by traditional Hmong story quilts, and is continually inspired by the art and tales of his heritage. Vang’s practice combines traditional narrative with new visual language to tell unique stories.
- Chef Yia Vang was born in a Thai refugee camp and lived there until his family was able to resettle in Wisconsin. He is a renowned chef and founder of the Union Hmong Kitchen, an award-winning restaurant in Minneapolis that brings Hmong cuisine and food traditions to the local community. Chef Yia is a James Beard Award finalist and has been featured in Bon Appétit magazine, CNN, and National Geographic, among other recognition.
- Mandora Young is an artist and educator specializing in traditional paj ntaub She teaches classes and workshops for all ages at librariesand schools, welcoming both Hmong and non-Hmong community members. Young is committed to passing down the paj ntaub cloth embroidery techniques as well as conveying the significance and history of the art form.
“Craft in America [has a] knack for telling big stories about the formation of culture, the purpose of creativity, the idea that the pursuits of beauty and utility are foundational to humanity.”
– New York Times