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  • Writer's pictureLola

Within, Between, and Beyond

When is the last time you had a chance to stand in front of a stunning life-sized painting of a person who reflected parts of your unique identity, while watching a video of them discussing their own identity?

Probably never, right? That’s why I’m so proud of this project!

The idea for Within, Between, and Beyond was born and developed when a few of us from MidWest Mixed Leadership traveled to the 2018 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference. Sofia Benrud had the idea of a vlog series and had a conversation with Fanshen Cox about how that could look given Fanshen’s experience with Mixed Roots Stories. Before moving on to other organizing opportunities, Sophia and Leslie Barlow started a team to begin dreaming and writing grants.


The primary creation team evolved to include Leslie, Ryan Stopera of Free Truth Media, Alissa Paris (Director of MidWest Mixed), and myself dreaming about a multimedia archive of Mixed people telling their own stories. We started with four subjects: Leslie collaborated with subjects in the setting of their choice to create beautiful life-sized paintings, while I guided interviews focusing on their racial identity experiences, which were filmed and edited by Ryan. Alissa created activations and opportunity for quiet reflection within the space. Within, Between, and Beyond debuted last summer at the 2019 MidWest Mixed Conference.

We couldn't have been happier with our initial project, which featured:

  • Carolina, a Chilean adoptee who discussed identity experiences in her adoptive family, as well as a return to Chile to search for her birth family.

  • Duaba, Creole and Black from Louisiana, discussing the complexities around identifying as Creole and the ways he has built chosen family and community.

  • Kelly, a Mixed person adopted into a White family, learning to navigate identity and parent her own multiracial children.

  • Erin, a Mixed Black woman, raised in early years by the White side of her family, and reuniting with her father and his family in adulthood, and educating herself on racial identity.

During the conference, I also interviewed 7 attendees reflecting on their personal identity experiences and reactions to the conference and exhibition. Somehow each interview was completely different, touching and poignant in its own way. A highlight for me was interviewing one of my best friends, Laura, who reflected for the first time on her White privilege as an adoptee. Many folx went very deep!

While this project was always meant as a live exhibition, it was important to us that it continue to live online for public access. You can view the paintings, subject interviews, and conference reaction videos here.

We also intended for this project to evolve over time. In the months following our conference debut, a couple of local museums expressed interest in expanding and showing the exhibition. Recently, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) selected Leslie Barlow for their Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) to expand and exhibit Within, Between, and Beyond in November 2020 - what an honor!

A first look at the MAEP Gallery!

With funding through this program, as well as a Cultural Communities Partnership grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board, we began the process of expanding the series. We have selected 12 additional subjects and started our photoshoots and initial interviews last week, beginning with a phenomenal interview with Keno Evol of Black Table Arts.

At the time of this writing, there is a lot of uncertainty about just about everything in the time of COVID-19, so timelines may shift. We remain so excited about this project, providing the opportunity for people who identify as Mixed, Multiracial, and Transracial Adoptees to tell their own stories, and to be depicted on their own terms through the mutual gaze of artists and subjects of color.

It's a beautiful project, I'm so proud!

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