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  • Dates: September 15, 2021 - May 12, 2022
  • Time: 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
  • Location: Rochester Art Center


May 12, 2021 – May 12, 2022
Curated by Zoe Cinel
Partnership UMR + Rochester Art Center
Counterspaces is a collective healing project for Rochester community members who have been impacted by the existing and increasing acts of racialized violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). This space is dedicated for listening to the stories, thoughts, and feelings of marginalized community members. This space is also for all members to creatively share their thoughtful responses. Counterspaces are “safe social spaces… which offer support and enhance feelings of belonging”* in marginalized individuals existing in spaces that are not made with them in mind. A counterspace is much more than just one of safety. It is a place of possibility for empowerment and transformation. And it is more than just a space of survival; as it is a space where critiques of and understandings on how oppression operates at the local level are collectively understood and acted upon at the larger, structural one.

The artwork that will be displayed has been created by students that have attended guided workshops led by Professor Yuko Taniguchi and Dr. Angie Mejia. These workshops have been intentionally designed to provide a counterspace for POC at the University of Minnesota Rochester. In addition to showcasing the students’ works, the Counterspaces Participatory Community Display at the Rochester Art Center invites visitors to contribute to a Poetry Wall and to an Origami Wall by reflecting on the themes of the project and sharing with others.

Yuko Taniguchi (Poet/ Origami artist) Originally from Japan, Yuko Taniguchi came to the United States at the age of fifteen. She is a poet and novelist, the author of a volume of poetry, Foreign Wife Elegy (2004), and a novel, The Ocean in the Closet (2007). Taniguchi teaches Reflection Writing at the University of Minnesota Rochester. She also provides creative writing and art classes in psychiatric units, incorporating origami. Taniguchi regularly collaborates with artists and healthcare professionals to explore how creative activities lead to self-discovery and healing.

Angie Mejia (Arts-based researcher) Angie Mejia is Assistant Professor and Civic Engagement Scholar at the University of Minnesota Rochester. As an educator and daughter of Chican@ and Afro-Latino activists, she encourages others to serve as bridges by introducing them to Black, Feminist of Color, and transnational feminist theories and methods. Her research uses arts-based participatory methods and cross-community collaborations to study emotional health inequities in Communities of Color. Her work has appeared in several academic journals, including American Journal of Public Health, Action Research, Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, and Cultural StudiesCritical Methodologies.

Lucia Sem Lucia Sem is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota Rochester. She aspires to become a physician working with underserved communities. Her passion for healing, vulnerability and self-discovery has led her to learning more about mental health and the usage of creative mediums as a treatment method. Currently she is working with Yuko Taniguchi in leading creative sessions as part of the intensive Outpatient Program in M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center.

*Ong, Smith, and Ko, “Counterspaces for Women of Color in STEM Higher Education: Marginal and Central Spaces for Persistence and Success,” 207.

Image: Yuko Taniguchi, The Truth of Mountains, 2021, origami and mixed media


Yuko Taniguchi is a fiscal year 2021 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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