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Artist gives back to Northland indigenous community

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DULUTH, MN. -- A piece of artwork that is hard to miss when driving through downtown Duluth holds a special meaning for the indigenous community.

The artist responsible for that mural on the side of AICHO's building, visited Duluth Monday to share a piece of native culture with the community.

Cities all across the country are seeing more and more representations of native art in their communities, including on West Second Street in Downtown Duluth.

"Ever since we did that mural, it's exploded to where it's reached so many other different communities and people are able too relate to that message because they are suffering from perhaps a similar experience, and that creates more community, which is why we do art in the first place," said Votan Henriquez.

Albuquerque native, Votan Henriquez, painted a large scale Ojibwe mural on AICHO's building in 2017, and made a stop in Duluth Monday, as part of a tour teaching non-indigenous people about native culture.

"We felt that we needed to address our existence as indigenous people to be able to see ourselves in society and not be considered curio," added Henriquez.

The artist is also giving back to indigenous people who are struggling during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've been coming here for the last three years, and we've become part of the community," said Henriquez.

Thanks to an idea started by his partner, Leah Marie, they are handing out bags filled with necessary supplies for both the young and elderly.

"During the quarantine a lot of children are living in this building that have been quarantine, bored and frustrated so we thought that we'd also bring some of those goods and give them out to the kids in AICHO," added Henriquez.

Henriquez adds he hopes to complete the 'Chief Buffalo' painting he started last year before returning home to Albuquerque. He wants to sell it in Duluth, and then donate that money to ACHIO.

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Ryan Compeau

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