CHAT hosts 10th annual Hmong Arts and Music Festival


This Saturday, the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT) hosts its 10th annual arts and music festival. The event boasts an explosion of visual arts, fashion, music, film, dance, spoken word, and more at the Western Sculpture Park on Marion Street in St. Paul.

"There's nothing like it," says CHAT staff member Katie Ka Vang. "This is the one time where artists can actually showcase what they have, and be at the center of the community." 

Some of the highlights of the festival include the visual art tent which will display the work of Hmong artists, featuring an exhibit of five juried art pieces. There's also the "Community Art Project," highlighting artwork created by community members of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences. The Qhia Dab Neeg film tent will screen shorts as well as excerpts from feature-length movies by Hmong filmmakers. 
The main stage of the festival will host musicians and performers of all different genres throughout the day, including entrants of the singer-songwriter competition, a traditional Hmong girls' dance group, a young MC from Portland named Vibe Self, and Ghost Mouth, an alternative rock band who will later play at Sommerset this weekend. 

Headlining the festival is Pupils of the Storm at 6 p.m., a collective of Hmong artists and musicians. Fres Thao, the MC for the group, says that their sound incorporates soul, funk, hip-hop, and rock. In addition to MC-ing and rapping, Thao might "jump on a xylophone," he says. 
Fres Thao is also CHAT's Director of Youth Programs. The festival's youth tent (or, "The Lounge") will showcase work done during the summer session. CHAT offers classes in fashion, dance, choir, and more, and on Saturday they will be presenting their final projects. The choir class will perform a medley of acapella music, the MC class will present a song that they created in a workshop, and the fashion class will put on a small runway show. Also, throughout the day, the youth tent will have an open mic where anyone can participate. 
"What we do is help youth find their voice and build confidence, community, and a sense of belonging," says Thao about CHAT's youth programs. CHAT also provides leadership programs and encourages kids to go to college. "We do workshops with them, introduce them to the community, and help them better themselves artistically," he says. 

This year, the festival will have a new interactive component where where the group will use social networking to include supporters in the CHAT family that aren't local. There will be trivia and contests throughout the day over Facebook, where the organization has over 2,000 fans. The festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday.