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Artists take up residence in Libraries

By January 16, 2018September 16th, 2023No Comments

A new residency program at the University of Minnesota Libraries aims to highlight historical collections to create new art, deepen connections between artists and archivists, and deliver art to larger audiences.

The Libraries’ Artist in Residency Program has chosen three distinguished and innovative artists to take part in its inaugural Artist in Residency program, which runs from January through June 2018. Valerie Caesar, Johnnay Leenay, and Rini Yun Keagy will take up residence in the Libraries’ archival, research, and digital collections to engage in exploratory creative projects that make art out of history and historical documents.

“This program builds on and formalizes collaborations with artists and researchers here and from all over the country,” said Kris Kiesling, Director of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Minnesota Libraries. “We are excited to support artists’ explorations of historical materials to inspire their creative work, and to bring both art and archives to new audiences.”

Over 40 hours between January and June, the artists will work with Libraries’ collections and participate in a series of public events and communications, including a capstone celebration on June 4, 2018 at the Elmer L. Andersen Library, posts on the Archives and Special Collections’ blog Primary Sourcery and via various social media channels. Each artist will receive a $1,500 stipend, a library card and some support for digitization.

The Artists in Residence program is sponsored by the Department of Archives and Special Collections, Research and Learning, and the Digital Arts, Sciences and Humanities (DASH) program at the University of Minnesota Libraries. 

“My long-term research interests concerning disease, race and migration will be well served by the Wangensteen Bio-Medical Collection and the Immigration History Research Center Archives,”  said Keagy, a moving image artist from Minneapolis-St. Paul. “As a filmmaker who works in the digital realm, I look forward especially to sinking into the tactility of books and objects from the past.”

About the artists

Valerie Caesar

Valerie Caesarphotographer/writer
Brooklyn, NY

Caesar’s work uses a dynamic mix of media — including photography, video, printmaking, animation, and Black vernacular music, speech and literature — and centers around the magic of Diasporic self-discovery in urban city centers.

Her work has been exhibited in local and national galleries. A graduate of Cornell University and Columbia University School of Law, Caesar was the 2012 Volkswagen Fellow of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in 2014 became the first recipient of The Marilyn Nance Archive Fellowship. She currently works as an independent media consultant for museums, archives, and public radio.

Caesar will be consulting the Givens Collection of African American Literature, Umbra Search African American History (, the Children’s Literature Research Collection, and others.

Rini Yun Keagy 


Photo by Eric Mueller

moving image artist
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

Rini Yun Keagy is a moving image artist based in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Her practice in video and 16mm film is multimodal and research-based, and investigates race and labor, disease, and sites of historical and psychosocial trauma.

She is a recipient of the McKnight Media Artist Fellowship and Jerome Foundation Film & Video Grant. She earned her MFA in Film & Media Arts from Temple University and her BA in Geography from UC Berkeley.

Her residency will focus on materials from the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine, Immigration History Research Center Archives, and the James Ford Bell Library.

Johnnay Leenay

Minneapolis, MN

Leenay earned a B.A. in Communications and Journalism and Justice and Peace Studies from the University of St. Thomas and is currently the first Diversity in the Arts Curatorial Fellow at the Minnesota Museum of American Art.

Her residency focuses on historical queer spaces in the Twin Cities and how they have shaped the queer community in Minnesota today. She will primarily work with materials from the Tretter Collection of GLBT Studies.

Contact information

Mark Engebretson
Director of Communications, 612-625-9148

Linnea Andersen
Archives and Special Collections, 612-624-6394

About Archives and Special Collections

The University of Minnesota Libraries’ Department of Archives and Special Collections (ASC) mission is to collect, care for, and provide access to a rich variety of historical sources. The collections are available to anyone with a desire to explore, discover and learn. ASC supports teaching and learning for the University community, K-12, and lifelong learners, and sponsors an active program of exhibitions and programs that are open to the public.

Collections include:

Recent special projects and initiatives include the Transgender Oral History Project (Tretter) and Umbra Search African American History (Givens), among others.

About the University Libraries

The University of Minnesota Libraries is one of the University’s and the state’s greatest intellectual assets. In 2017, the Libraries won the National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute for Museum and Library Services — becoming only the third academic library to win the award in 23 years.

The Libraries welcomes learners and scholars from all cultures and backgrounds and strives to reflect our community by embracing the diversity of people and ideas.

Mark Engebretson

Author Mark Engebretson

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