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Ta-coumba T. Aiken Celebrates His Birthday with an Exhibition Opening Today

Ta-coumba Aiken

Ta-coumba Aiken

Ta-coumba T. Aiken celebrates his birthday today with "Birth of Spirit," an exhibition featuring paintings celebrating life. Presented by Gallery One TractorWorks and Ron Ridgeway, the show is part of the Art Leadership Program, which aims to transform under-utilized spaces into contemporary art galleries. 

Aiken is dedicating the show to his mother, who was a healer. She passed away in 1972, and was a person who could "celebrate joy at an unbelievable level," he says. "She just had a lot of love." 

The exhibition will showcase a number of round paintings featuring Aiken's colorful and detailed patterns, as well as larger pieces and a "bargain wall" of smaller and less expensive works.

Through the show, Aiken aims to touch people's spirits. "It speaks to people's hearts and souls," Aiken says. He's not particular about how people interpret the work, however, leaving it up to the viewer to figure out what it means for them. "I like things happening without me happening," he says. 

The Art Leadership Program was started five years ago at the TractorWorks Building in the North Loop. Ron Ridgeway, the program's founder, was asked to do curatorial work in the building, so he installed 50 works of art. Eleven of the pieces were his own creation, and he was given studio space as well. After three months, City Center Realty, which owned the building at the time, asked him to stay. 

Ta-coumba Aiken: "Birth of the Spirit" 

Ta-coumba Aiken: "Birth of the Spirit" 

Eventually, the Arts Leadership Program became a network of different exhibition spaces following a similar model. In addition to Gallery One TractorWorks, which is open to the public, spaces include two corporate galleries and a private gallery. 

"We're advocating for emerging, mid-career and established artists," Ridgeway says. He also provides mentorship to young artists. 

Aiken met Ridgeway through a mutual friend, arts advocate Herbert Milligan, at a show across the street from TractorWorks at 801 Gallery. They later got to talking at a community engagement event in Bloomington, and discovered that their birthdays are two days apart. Soon after, Ridgeway came to visit Aiken in Lowertown, and discussed when Aiken might show at Gallery One. "Everything has a certain vibe and cadence. Having an opening on my birthday -- I couldn't mess with that," Aiken says. "I'm very much about being in the moment." 

The long run of the exhibition, which goes for three months, means that there will be more opportunities for people to stop in and see the work multiple times. "My art needs to be looked at for a period of time," he says.

Ridgeway believes that the North Loop area is a great place to be showing work right now, having been written about in places like Travel and Leisure. "Two-thousand, five-hundred people are moving here in the next year and a half," Ridgeway says. "It's a changing dynamic. We're here, and you all have white walls." 

Plus, with the economy finally improving. "People are spending money. They are making more, and they are moving into the neighborhood," says Aiken. "It's a beautiful thing." Despite better business, he also tries to make some artwork that almost anyone could afford as well, so for the exhibition he'll have a wall full of smaller and less expensive works for new collectors. 

IF YOU GO:

"Birth of Spirit"

Through March 20

There will be an opening reception Monday, December 28, from 5-8 p.m.

Gallery One TractorWorks

800 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis

The gallery is also open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Monday through Friday