A 10-day festival is celebrating Minnesota's emerging black artists

Comedy, dance, theatre, poetry, photography, music, painting, and even aerial arts.
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When Josh Wilder and Jamil Jude arrived in Minnesota they felt the isolation of being young black artists in the mostly white Twin Cities theatre scene. And they figured black artists in other fields felt it, too.

So a couple years ago they got some financial backing and held a three-day festival to showcase the talents of the metro area's young black artists.

Now The New Griots Festival is back with a much bigger 10-day run at the Guthrie Theatre's Dowling Studio. This year's lineup includes poetry, theatre, dance, improv comedy, photography, an aerialist, painting, and music.

Besides more performances, the scope of the festival has also expanded compared to 2015. The motivation then "was really selfish, to be honest," co-founder Jamil Jude tells MPR News. "We just wanted to get to know other artists that looked like us."

This time around the expanded festival, which started Thursday, includes classes and panel conversations as well as performances.

The name of the festival comes from West Africa, where griots preserve the history and oral traditions of their cultures through storytelling, music, and songs.

A sampling of the festival

You can learn more about the 10 artists performing during the festival from The New Griots or from the Guthrie, but here's a taste:

Miss Coco Nostal'jah is performing Stay?, in which the aerialist tells the story of a love triangle "...through movement presentations of partnered balancing, dance, and aerial circus arts."

Shaina McCoy is a painter whose classes will include one called Self-love Through a Painter's Stroke.

April Gibson is a poet who will read from a collection titled The Black Woman Press Conference: Dear Everybody Who Ain't a Black Woman.

Arthur "LA" Buckner will perform The Drum Clinic: How Do YOU Improvise? which includes "different approaches in transforming imitation into improvisation."

The classes are all free. Tickets for each performance are $9 apiece and can be purchased through the Guthrie.

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