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SMSC supports fulltime Native American fellowship at Minneapolis Institute of Art

To increase the number of indigenous curators in Native American art, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has funded a full-time, year-long fellowship at the Minneapolis Institute of Art for 2020-2021.

The SMSC has funded a part-time fellowship opportunity for years, but this is the inaugural year of the full-time Native American fellowship.

“What we’re trying to do at MIA is offer immersive experiences for Native American people interested in curation to eventually become curators in the field,” said Associate Curator of Native American Art at MIA Jill Ahlberg Yohe.

Instead of the fellowship being project focused, fellows shadow Ahlberg Yohe directly and gain hands-on experience “in every aspect of the curatorial process,” she said. Fellows may help with the creation of a specific exhibition, the installation of galleries, get involved in community outreach and more.

MIA has over 90,000 artworks from six different countries spanning 5,000 years, its website states. And with more than 300 employees and many different divisions and departments, MIA provides a well-rounded experience to its fellows.

Each day at MIA is different “to allow the fellow to see the range of jobs and the range of responsibilities that we have in an encyclopedic museum — we steward the collection, we acquire objects, we work with community members, we do scholarship, we create large exhibitions and small exhibitions, we work on inner permanent galleries and that’s just to name a few,” Ahlberg Yohe said.

The year-long opportunity prepares fellows to move directly into assistant curatorial positions, she said, and previous fellows have gone on to work at other museums throughout the country.

Indigenous presence

Dozens of applications from all over the United States are typically received for the fellowship and the deadline for the upcoming year closed on Aug. 10. Applicants will be interviewed and the first full-time fellow will be chosen this fall.

Overall, the fellowship helps to grow indigenous presence in museums, a goal of MIA and SMSC.

“The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has supported this fellowship program at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for more than 15 years, and we look forward to it expanding into a full-time program this year,” said SMSC Chairman Keith Anderson. “We hope this fellowship will provide a good opportunity for up-and-coming arts professionals and encourage more Indigenous curators in this field.”

MIA is grateful to have the SMSC sponsor the fellowship each year, Ahlberg Yohe said.

“These fellows teach us as much as we provide a place of learning for them. And that’s really important for all institutions and I’m really proud that MIA is a part of that learning circle,” she added.

While museums have collected and displayed Native American art throughout time, Native Americans have not always been involved in the curation and discussion of the artwork, Ahlberg Yohe said.

“I think that that is extremely important, for indigenous voices to be heard and prioritized… One thing I think about with the fellowship is how does indigenous art intersect with American art, because indigenous art is American art and you can’t tell the story of American art without understanding indigenous art,” she said.

There are new perspectives and a better understanding of oneself to be gained from viewing Native American artwork, Ahlberg Yohe added.

“We have in America this sense of amnesia of Native people. Native people have always been here and always will be here and it’s important to recognize the contributions of indigenous people and recognition that we are on Indigenous land right now and the more that you arrive at the understanding that we, all of us as Americans, no matter where we are in America right now we are on Indigenous land… the more that we can integrate that into our daily understanding of where we are as people,” she said.

The current collection of Native American Art at MIA features artwork representative of hundreds of different Indigenous communities throughout the Americas. Since the start of Ahlberg Yohe’s tenure, she has worked to include Native American art into many other spaces and programs within the Mia.

Native American Artist Julie Buffalohead’s work “Storytelling” is currently on display at MIA. Buffalohead is a member of the Ponca tribe of Oklahoma and lives in St. Paul.

The museum is open to the public at a limited capacity. General admission is free. Tickets can be reserved in-person, in advance by visiting https://new.artsmia.org/ or by calling 612-870-3000. Various exhibitions and artwork, including “Storytelling: Julie Buffalohead” can also be viewed on the MIA website.

Austin Gordon drives a pitch in seventh-seeded Prior Lake’s 6-4 playoff victory at fourth-seeded Shakopee Aug. 7, which earned the Jays a spot in the Class B state field.

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Prior Lake-Savage schools to commence fall learning via hybrid model

Education for students within Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools will be conducted both at-home and in-person this fall.

At its regular Monday meeting, the PLSAS board voted 4-3 in favor of a resolution adopting a hybrid learning model for the 2020-2021 school year.

With the implementation of a hybrid learning model “all students will learn through a combination of learning at-home and in-person learning at school, with strict social distancing and capacity limits,” a presentation on plans for fall education said. 

The hybrid learning model will split students into two groups. Group A will attend school in-person Mondays and Thursdays with teacher facilitated learning at home on Tuesdays and Fridays. Group B students will attend school in-person Tuesdays and Fridays with teacher facilitated learning at home Mondays and Thursdays. Wednesdays will serve as “flex days” or flexible instruction days where a majority of students will learn from home and some students will attend school in-person for individual and small group student interventions, enrichment or specific classes. Students who attend school in-person on flex days will be released two hours early and can continue learning from home.

Families or those who have multiple students within the PLSAS district will be assigned to the same group.

In accordance with Gov. Tim Walz’s Safe Learning Plan all families will have the option to choose distance learning as an option for the entirety of the school year through the district’s new Distance Learning Academy.

The decision for fall learning came after stakeholder engagement in the form of focus groups, focus interviews, surveys and more. Feedback on learning models was collected from 50 families; 6,700 responses were received from surveys focused on learning model preferences and transportation; 2,400 responses were received from hybrid model surveys; and more feedback on the Distance Learning Academy will be received shortly.

The decision also follows the state’s guidelines on determining a safe learning model based on the number of cases per 10,000 over 14 days by county of residence:

  • 0-9: In-person learning for all students.
  • 10-19: In-person learning for elementary students; hybrid learning for secondary students.
  • 20-29: Hybrid learning for all students.
  • 30-49: Hybrid learning for elementary students; distance learning for secondary students.
  • 50+: Distance learning for all students.

The board noted that while the plan is for learning to commence via a hybrid model, each Friday a meeting with the Scott County Public Health, superintendents and other district and health officials will be held to to review COVID-19 data and determine if a transition from one learning model to another model is needed.

The passing of the resolution came after hours of discussion by the board during their Monday study session and board meeting. Before voting in support of the resolution, PLSAS Board Treasurer Jonathan Drewes said he trusts the guidance from health and district officials, but also empathizes with educators who will have to return to the classroom. He asked families to do their part once school resumes.

“I have a heartfelt plea to our families and to our communities. You've asked a lot of us, I'm going to ask a lot of you. We all want to return to some semblance of normal. We all want to send our kids back to school everyday. We all want our athletes to be able to play, we want our band to be able to march and we want our theater kids to be able to perform. Kids belong in school — how many times have people told us that — and I completely agree,” Drewes said. “I just have one word. Safely. Kids belong in safe schools and there's only one way to make that happen as a community and that is as a community we take it seriously. The school can do everything right from the moment your kid steps on the bus to the moment your kid steps off the bus in the afternoon and if you’re not wearing your mask and if they’re not doing the right things in between it isn't going to make any difference.”

Before casting his dissenting vote, PLSAS Board Director Enrique Velazquez said that while data suggests the hybrid model is the most appropriate that the school should make sure they have a solid plan and that educators are supported and prepared.

“Shifting that dial just a little bit, it’s that distance model, it's not the most attractive of the options but it allows people to move back and kind of dip their toe into education and then we can dial things up from there as we continue to grow. Since the distance option is still going to be a part of the hybrid, why not get the first step right and focus on getting that nailed down extremely well before moving forward with a partial classroom option and what that looks like,” Velazquez said. “Science yes, data yes, there's also that component of making sure people feel empowered, that they have everything they need to move forward and be successful regardless of who they are.”


Childcare will be available at all elementary schools for children in grades K-5. Priority registration will go to tier one essential workers including PLSAS staff. Care will be offered for a fee before and after school hours and free during school hours. Registration for parents not considered tier one will be based on space availability and offered for a fee.

Student Support Services

Special education students will continue to receive special education services, accommodations and modifications. English learners will also continue to receive language development services. Services and support will be personalized based on individual needs and English language proficiency.


Bus routes will remain the same with bus capacity at 37. During the meeting it was noted that the bus company plans to sanitize buses between each route and it is anticipated there will be a high level of interest in parents driving their children to school.

Child Nutrition Services

Students will still eat at the school cafeteria while socially distancing and at 50% capacity. High touch points like pin pads will be eliminated completely or sanitized between each use. All foods will be grab-n-go or served to students by Child Nutrition Services staff. After going through the cafeteria line once students will sit down and remain seated. If they need anything after that point they will be helped by staff.

Moving Forward

Board members agreed there were still many details to be fleshed out before the start of the school year, but some things will remain consistent within the new learning environment. All grades will still have access to technology, be taught by PLSAS teachers, be provided academic support and social and emotional learning. Just like any other school day, students will be expected to attend all class sessions and attendance will be taken by teachers.

What group students will be a part of will be communicated to them the week of Aug. 24, a letter from Superintendent Dr. Teri Staloch posted on the Prior Lake-Savage Schools Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage said. A full outline of the Ready to Learn Plan can be found on the PLSAS website.