» Wing Young Huie
How did you become an artist?
I decided to become an artist in my early twenties, after I took a one-week photography workshop from the inimitable Garry Winogrand at Film in the Cities in St. Paul. I spent the rest of my twenties building my photography portfolio but mostly making a living as a bartender. Eventually in my early thirties I became a full-time freelance photographer. After getting burned out trying to illustrate to editors and art directors ideas of what makes a good photo (and getting fired from one magazine), I started working on my first project in Frogtown, finally having my first solo show outdoors in 1995 on the corner of University Avenue and Dale Street. Almost twenty years had passed since that early desire to become an artist.
Why is art a powerful tool for speaking out, for creating change in the world? How have you used art to do that?
Defining art is like defining god. Everyone has a different definition. I'm not trying to change the world. Rather I'm interested in showing what reality looks like photographically to me. We live in an idealized, photo-shopped culture that does not reflect the lives of its people. Yet that false reality has become our unwitting reality.
The best comment I've ever received was from a 5th grader who said that he liked my pictures. "What did you like about them?" I asked. "They're real," he replied. I said, "Don't you ever see photos that are real?" After a pause he said, "No."
Other than your work as a Creative CityMaking artist, how has Intermedia Arts been part of your story?
We held a community auction at Intermedia Arts in late fall of 2000 of all my 675 photos that were displayed in windows along six miles of Lake Street. All the walls at Intermedia were wallpapered with photos. We were able to raise enough money to help pay for much of my large-scale public installation: Lake Street USA.
What do you find most exciting or inspiring about Creative CityMaking? Why do you want to be a part of it?
One of the central questions in our society is understanding how a city can publicly reflect all of its citizens in an authentic way. How can its structures seem organic rather than imposed? To try to find some of the answers artistically is very exciting and challenging.
“Defining art is like defining god. Everyone has a different definition”
- Wing Young Huie
Wing Young Huie has been photographing the dizzying socioeconomic and cultural realities of American society, much of it centered on the urban cores of his home state of Minnesota. Although his work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, his most well-known projects are large-scale public installations, including Frogtown (1995), Lake Street USA (2000) and The University Avenue Project (2010), which transformed major Twin Cities’ thoroughfares into epic photo galleries, reflecting the everyday lives of thousands of its citizens in the midst of some of the most diverse concentrations of international immigrants in the country.
In 2000 the Minneapolis Star Tribune named Wing “Artist of the Year:” “Lake Street USA is likely to stand as a milestone in the history of photography and public art.” The resulting book was also hailed by the Star Tribune as one of 25 great books ever published about Minnesota.
His five published books are: The University Avenue Project, Volume 1 (2010); The University Avenue Project Volume 2 (2010); Looking For Asian American: An Ethnocentric Tour (2007); Lake Street USA (2001) and Frogtown: Photographs and Conversations in an Urban Neighborhood (1996).
Wing has conducted hundreds of lectures and workshops throughout the country and internationally to audiences of all kinds, including K-12 classrooms, colleges, museums, non-profits, and corporations, engaging participants with his many photographic projects that reflect America’s dizzying and changing cultural landscape; providing a collective window and mirror of the them who are really us.
The Third Place, a gallery that Wing opened in 2012 on the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in South Minneapolis, furthers his concepts of using art as a community-building catalyst. Once a month events are held, featuring artists and thinker from a wide array of disciplines mediums who engage in a salon-style discussion with the audience, followed by ping-pong and karaoke.