Wednesday, April 1, 2015

National Lao American Symposium and Writers Summit: April 17-18, 2015

This is a reminder that the Lao American writers and artists from around the nation gather for the National Lao American Symposium and Writers Summit April 17-18, 2015 at Urban Research Outreach and Engagement Center in Minneapolis. This activity was made possible in part by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

 The Lao American Writers Summit examines ways writers create work to transform their lives and their world. It is organized as a grass-roots effort with the assistance of many local and national arts and community groups. Confirmed writers include award-winning film-makers, authors and performers such as Catzie Vilayphonh of the spoken word duo Yellow Rage, Saymoukda Vongsay, playwright and author of the chapbook “No Regrets,” actor Ova Saopeng of Refugee Nation, and the acclaimed poets Krysada Panusith Phounsiri, writer Nor Sanavongsay, Ko Chandetka, and the Kinnaly Dance Troupe from Seattle.

 This year’s Summit received funding and support from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the Lao Assistance Center, the Loft Literary Center, Asian American Press, the University of Minnesota Asian American Studies Program, Swan Scythe Press, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, the national Association of Asian American Studies and many others. For more information email: or visit the conference website at

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lao Assistance Center Seeks 2 Employment Navigators

Want to work with the Lao community and help job-seekers build their skills set and get employed? LACM is looking to fill two Employment Navigator positions to lead our employment counseling program. Apply here:

Funeral services for Phetsamone Insixiengmay: August 10th

The Lao Assistance Center extends its condolences to the family and friends of Phetsamone Insixiengmay, who passed away on Sunday, August 4th. The funeral service for her will be Saturday, August 10th, 2013 starting 12:00 Noon at the Crystal Lake Funeral Home, located at 3816 Penn Avenue North, in Minneapolis.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Executive Director Sunny Chanthanouvong receives award on August 14th

Congratulations to Lao Assistance Center Executive Director Sunny Chanthanouvong, who has received the Human Services Award from the McKnight Foundation.

The McKnight Foundation recognizes up to six Minnesotans who demonstrated “an exceptional personal commitment to helping others in their communities but who have received little or no public recognition.” The awards were first presented in 1985. The only other Lao Minnesotan to receive the award in its 28-year history so far was Kouthong Vixayvong in 1991.

The awards are given to recognize anyone “directly involved in providing human services, especially those working to make their communities more responsive to the needs of poor or disadvantaged people in Minnesota."

The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. For 60 years of grantmaking, collaboration, and strategic policy reform, they use their resources to attend, unite, and empower those they serve.

Chanthanouvong was nominated this year by Carlos Gallego of Think Small. Gallego wrote “Sunny is an inspirational and tireless leader within the Lao community. He is a knowledgeable and articulate voice, expressing the needs of those he serves.”

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happy Lao Minnesotan Artists Heritage Month

The 2013 Certificate of Recognition from Governor Mark Dayton and the State of Minnesota has arrived to once again recognize Lao Minnesotan Artists in the month of August. It was sent to this year’s co-chair, Saymoukda Vongsay. What are some of the things you’ll be doing to celebrate Lao Minnesotan Artists Heritage Month?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lao Traditional Storytellers Fellowship Program

Here are some highlights from our final report to the Minnesota State Arts Board on our traditional storyteller project.

From March, 2012 to February, 2013 we convened 12 monthly group meetings training on storytelling techniques, and 58 one-on-one trainings with a master Lao storyteller, in addition to over 42 informal meetings of the Lao Storyteller fellows with local Minnesota storytellers outside of the Lao community.

They went on to participate in numerous mainstream or Asian American events as a Lao American storyteller including the Twin Cities Dragon Festival, the Autumn Moon Festival, Twin Cities World Refugee Day, and planned to attend the International Lao Studies Conference.

We convened four Public Storytelling Performances at the Harrison on June 23rd, August 10th, October 13th, January 18, 2013 with an average of 60 to 80 people in attendance. We organized a 3-day Storytelling/Arts Festival on February 21-23, 2013 with over 300 people in attendance.

Our storytellers also told traditional stories during the Lao New Year Festival on April 13th-15th in English and Lao to an audience of ca. 500. Evaluations were done by journals notes and survey.

This was the first year that we ever attempted to do such a solid focus on traditional storytelling and all of our staff and volunteers loved the process while reaching out to our clients. They made some amazing connections between their program areas, traditional stories, and interacting with them, so it was good to see that influence spread.

Our members felt their stories and lives were validated and they were glad to see we were becoming less invisible after 40 years in Minnesota. It gave them a good reason to venture out of the homes and engage and rebuild our community, and to learn new technology and techniques that will preserve and expand our culture.

New participants were identified and encouraged to participate through an enhanced social media campaign and targeted outreach through our exisiting mailing list requesting leads. Our younger storytelling fellows also had many pre-built networks of friends who were able to come and support us.

During the first three months we all worked together to asses the barriers of participation as the artists and new audiences saw it. They liked the local locations more. Timing was a barrier to most, and concerns that it would not interesting and accessible. Together with the Storytelling fellows we discussed ways to modernize the visual vocabulary and branding image of what people connect to traditional arts.

Our preliminary sense is that the project is sustainable. At the moment, we hope to see how well the apprentices now do independently before determining if additional skill sets are needed. We need to continue to have access to reliable communications infrastructure and networks, and more spaces where community gatherings can be convened in a culturally appropriate manner.

Funding is always helpful, and support from educators to help our apprentices find opportunities to speak and to build audiences may be useful too.

Most of the fellows are young women now, compared to traditional ideas of storytellers being grandpa and the grandkids. Formal Lao wear wasn't required, and so it became seen as more of a folk art anyone could do. The strategies seemed to work well, overall.

This activity was made possible in part by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

Monday, July 22, 2013

North Side Workforce Center community meeting: August 2nd

Stop by our office On August 2nd to give your input on what recommendations the next Workforce Center should have to help the Lao community find stable employment. We're starting with lunch at 11:00am! Come on by!