Hmong Museum partners on the Hmong Tattoo Exhibition Opens June 10, 2017 at Northern Spark


tousaikosizeTou Saiko Lee is amongst the few local artists who were chosen through a competitive grant to create an immersive exhibition, Hmong Tattoo Exhibit, that opens on June 10, 2017 during the Northern Spark, an all-night arts event put on by Northern His artist collaborative, the Hmong Tattoo Crew, will work in the next few months to pull together this exhibition. It explores the Hmong diaspora, Hmong designs and motifs, and climate change through tattoo culture.

“These unlikely elements of tattoo, textile, and climate change are intersections of modern Hmong diaspora identity. The Hmong motifs are drawn from textile symbols and those were inspired by the agricultural lifestyle of the Hmong. For Hmong who have grown up in western societies where there might not be a connection to farming and gardening, their fascination with Hmong symbols are that strong bond that continues that relationship crossing time and space,” says Mai Nhia Vang, founder of the Hmong Museum, a partner in the tattoo exhibition. “Tattoo is a physical expression of their Hmong identities.”

Hmong Museum is a partner with the Hmong Tattoo Crew to coordinate and develop the exhibition. Melissa Vang, photographer and team member, will begin photographing and profiling tattoo artists and tattoo recipients for the show. The images will be printed onto 8-foot tall cloth panels and transport visitors through the journey of these individuals. The team has announced a call for Hmong tattoo artists and individuals with Hmong cultural inspired tattoos. Along with the exhibition the Hmong Tattoo Crew will host artists’ talk throughout the evening, give glow-in-the-dark Hmong motif temporary tattoos, and a live body painting demonstration.

To submit your tattoo and story visit or share your own stories on social media #mytattoostory.

Hmong Museum is a new start-up 501(c)3 cultural organization in the Twin Cities established in 2013. It began as a passion project to bring Hmong history to life and preserve all things Hmong. As a museum without walls, the organization focuses on bringing rich cultural programming to community spaces.

Supporting Hmong Museum

Letter from the Chair:

Dearest Family and Friends,

Inspired by a handwritten manuscript of a children’s book that was carefully preserved in a temperature and relative humidity controlled cavern, I began a journey 12 or so years ago. That was to create a Hmong Museum so that I may in this lifetime be able to hold a real object of a history that my parents experienced as refugees of war. Little did I know that it would take so much skill, patience, maneuvering, late nights like tonight as I write this letter, and so much more to move inches to see it happen.

As I’ve told my closest friends and earliest supporters that their mere words would give me enough energy to go on for weeks and months. But alas energy isn’t enough to get us going. So with great efforts by the board of Hmong Museum, who have stuck it out for the last four years, we wrote grant after grant. Of course this was after we received nonprofit status, which was itself a hurdle and great accomplishment for us. Gratefully, we received our first grant ever through the Knight Arts Challenge for $20,000. WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT! We are ecstatic. Then for the same project we received a grant from the Asian Pacific Endowment grant and the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Folk and Tradition grant. We’re riding a very happy wave here.

But we need another $12,000 to match the Knight Foundation’s challenge, plus few more thousand to rent an office.

And so this long email letter is to ask each of my friends, colleagues, family, and acquaintances to help me reach Hmong Museum’s fundraising goals. On November 12, 2015, today, Hmong Museum participates in Give to the Max through GiveMN. Give what you can today. Sign up to receive updates, share this with your friends. We are building something here and you’re going to be part of it.

Donate here

Read a short article about Hmong Chronicles, our storytelling project, here.

Like our Facebook Page

Sign-up to receive emails–79ArUTZYQI/viewform

Ok, enough with the links. There’s so much I want to share and this one annual email doesn’t do it justice. I plan to give more frequent updates as we progress this year, especially this year. Do donate, if you can’t, I totally understand. Simply sharing helps too!

Thank you for sticking with me through this email letter and for supporting me all along.

Yours, Mai N. Vang

Hmong Museum Begins Fundraising for Hmong Storytelling Project Through Give To The Max Day

In an effort to preserve traditional Hmong storytelling, the Hmong Museum will begin fundraising for a new production, “Hmong Chronicles,” on Give to the Max Day Nov. 12. Funds raised will match a $20,000 award from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through its Knight Arts Challenge.

Hmong Museum awarded $20,000 from Knight Foundation. From left: Victoria Rogers (KF VP/Art), July Vang (HM Board), Mai Vang (HM Founder and Chair), Kathy Mouacheupao (HM VP), and Bahia Ramos (KF Arts Program Director) at the award Ceremony. Learn more about our project and award at
Hmong Museum awarded $20,000 from Knight Foundation. From left: Victoria Rogers (KF VP/Art), July Vang (HM Board), Mai Vang (HM Founder and Chair), Kathy Mouacheupao (HM VP), and Bahia Ramos (KF Arts Program Director) at the award Ceremony. Learn more about our project and award at

“At Knight we believe in the importance of communities telling their own stories. The Hmong Chronicles will do this by weaving these narratives together and creating a platform to share them with the great St. Paul community,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation.

One of just 40 grantees named a winner of the Knight Arts Challenge, “Hmong Chronicles” will bring together Hmong elders and young Hmong artist collaborators to retell folk, refugee, ghost, and orphan stories for Hmong and non-Hmong audiences, a program expected to be produced summer of 2016

“This is a program that will change the way we preserve folk arts like traditional Hmong storytelling,” says Mai N. Vang, Board Chair of Hmong Museum, “We have a lot of supporters in the community, now we’re asking for them to step-up by donating so that we can make the project happen.”

Hmong Museum kicks off its fundraising with Give to the Max Day. Their slogan “raise 20 to get 20” was recently released on Facebook with a message to motivate their 1,000+ fans to give on Nov. 12. Other fundraisers are being planned including mini-series crowdfunding highlighting elder storytellers. To support Hmong Museum follow this link

Hmong Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that envisions a thriving community with a heightened Hmong consciousness. The Hmong Museum exists to recognize and acknowledge the intersections of all things Hmong.

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit


Hmong Museum Board Chair, Mai N. Vang,



Hmong Museum to Host “Hmong Chronicles,” a Storytelling Series

Can oral storytelling can be relevant and be considered for public education and interpretation?

In 2016 and 2017 the Hmong Museum will seek an answer with their year-long storytelling series, Hmong Chronicles. The Museum will partner up with local Twin Cities Hmong artists–young and old, writers and oral storytellers–on a series of four events to share and document oral storytelling in the community. The Museum’s hope is to share and preserve Hmong oral storytelling, a tradition beloved by the older Hmong community but often overlooked in the U.S. as educational emphasis is placed on the written language.

“Hmong Chronicles is a collaborative mix that really highlights the beautiful Hmong storytelling art form. We’re excited about the artistic possibilities of this program and can’t wait to bring it to the community,” said Mai Vang, Founder and Board Chair of the Hmong Museum. Each free event will be held in a public space in order to reach the maximum number of attendees: young people, parents, elders, and those who may have difficulty taking time away from full-time jobs. Each event will also feature an intergenerational pair of artists, a Hmong elder and a contemporary Hmong-American writer, which promises to be an engaging collaboration between modern and traditional forms. Those not able to attend the Hmong Chronicles series will have the opportunity to see the events in the videos that will be published in 2018.

“We’ve recruited knowledgeable Hmong elders and are in contact with Hmong-American writers to begin this series,” Mai Vang said. In addition to the Knight Arts Challenge proposal, the Museum has applied for and hopes to receive funding to conduct research on interpretive value of oral storytelling in museum spaces. They are also trying to secure funding to pay for a Hmong Chronicles series videographer and to pay each storyteller a stipend.

If you are interested in volunteering for the events, contact

Hmong Museum – one of 61 Finalists for Knight Arts Challenge!

We are happy to announce that Hmong Museum was one of the 61 winners of the Knight Arts Challenge. Our art idea is to host series of Hmong oral storytelling through collaboration between knowledgeable Hmong elders and Hmong-American writers. See the story here!

For more info email

Hmong Vietnam War Vets Fight for Military Burials

Hmong Vietnam War Vets Fight for Full Military Burials

In the 1960s and 70s, the CIA recruited Vang Pao to organize a Hmong fighting force to join America’s “secret war” against the North Vietnamese in Laos.

When the war ended, 35,000 Hmong soldiers died, according to Rep. Jim Costa, (D-Fresno). The survivors were given refugee status in the U.S. and became naturalized citizens. But none have ever been given veteran status, and some – including Pao, the group’s general, who died in 2011— have been refused burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Rep. Costa — whose constituents include some 40,000 Hmong — is now pushing legislation to give full military burial rights to those granted citizenship under the 2000 Hmong Veterans’ Naturalization Act, an estimated 6,200 to 8,200 fighters.

But the future of the bill is in jeopardy. Legislation has moved slowly, and Costa — the bill’s major backer — is still fighting for his seat in a midterm race that’s too close to call.

California’s Hmong survivors — like Charlie Moua, 65 — say burial rights would mean getting the respect the dignity he and his fellow fighters feel they’ve earned.

Moua was 12 when he was recruited to fight and first held an M-14. Acknowledgement of his service, he says, would memorialize it for future generations.

“Our bloodshed and sacrifice brought the Hmong 100 years into the future by coming to this country—that’s what we gave our children,” Moua told the Sacramento Bee. “American children respect their parents, but Hmong children don’t even bother to find out where their parents are coming from.”

Reproduced from

Thoughts of Museums

What are museums?

The term museum comes from mouseion, institution of the muses, and often refers to the Mouseion of Alexandria built in 309 BC. A home to poetry, art, and science where, it is said that, 1000 scholars would convene at any one time. Museums today are places that preserve art, ethnographic, and natural history. More than collections, museums interpret history for the general public. But current museums are not enough. They are often either very general or unrelated to the Hmong. Without a dedicated museum to curate, collect, share Hmong stories, and expand upon Hmong muses, many of us will never see the important correspondences between Hmong and American CIA agents or gain a deeper understanding of our traditions, language, and culture. In private hands and collections, Hmong history is invisible.

That is why a Hmong Museum is needed. Our mission is to build Hmong consciousness through collections of Hmong objects, art, oral tradition, and life experiences. It is time, now, to come together, purposefully and begin the Hmong Museum.

Starting a museum. How we did it.

With all the resources out there, one would think that starting an organization would be so straight forward.There are no nitty-gritty-getting-hands-dirty Buzzfeed styled step-by-step instructions. It really is trial by error experience.

I’m no expert, nor do I have all the answers, but here is how I did it.

  1. Connect with people.
  • Friends and family. These may be the first people you begin sharing ideas with. My good friend Malia and I used to lay on living floor and dream up the entry way of the Hmong Museum. She was going to be an architecture and I was going to open a museum. And now we’re both elbow deep in the careers we dreamed of.
  • Directors of other non-profits in a similar industry. I cold-emailed groups and organizations and eventually connected with Lee Pao Xiong from the Center for Hmong Studies. He was gracious enough to meet with me and give me time to do a presentation of my vision. He also then connected me to other individuals what he thought would be interested.
  • Individuals who have the same interests. Lee Pao was a great start. I really didn’t have a connection to the Hmong community in Saint Paul, so I turned to Facebook. I started a group and invited every one of my friends. Friends of friends of friends started responding. There weren’t people lined up for blocks wanting to do this with me, but there were messages from about a dozen solid leads who sounded seemed really interested. (A few of them are now on the Board!)
  • Ask potential mentors (individuals in the field, industry, or leaders of your community) to coffee. Notice how I didn’t say lunch or dinner. If you were like me a freshly minted [insert passionate occupation], there isn’t a lot of green going around. The 30 minute conversations will help you vocalize your vision and make it feel more real. This step is very important. Without a relationship with people, it will be difficult to get them to jump on your cause. Before I did this, I was sitting in an empty room with markers, papers, and RSVPs but with 100% no-shows. The more people know who you are and what you are doing, the more likely they will to show up or support your cause.
  1. Have a vision and a rough plan. Not a perfect plan, just an idea of where you see yourself so that you can verbalize it.
  2. Keep a few cheerleaders around. Your family or friends are perfect for this. Especially when you’re not seeing the kinds of results you hope for.

    98% want to see a hmong museum
    Survey results were used on this postcard. The backside was a nice historic photo.
  3. Research, research, research. ORGANIZATIONS: What organizations are out there that similar to one you want to create? How is your organization going to be different? Where is the gap? Can you join another group? Starting with this will help you see what’s out there and how successful (or not) they really are and how you can fill in a gap that they are not meeting. Plus when you find them, you can ask them a million questions to help you with your rough plan. THE COMMUNITY: Research the community. Who are you going to serve? Do they even want what you are offering? I did a short survey and gave it to strangers at the Hmong Sports Tournament where I knew I would have a large group of people in the demographic that I wanted to target. Plus I created a similar survey on Survey Monkey to get more responses.
  4. Do the ask. Imagine yourself as a development officer. Someone who is going out there to ask virtually complete strangers to give you something. In this case, it is time. You are asking people to join your cause (probably voluntarily). Maybe you want to start a club, a board, or a committee. This is going to be the group that will create the structure of the organization through strategic planning, complete all the hoops to incorporate and get 501(c)3 status, develop and run programs. Basically starting the non-profit.

Now you can start. This is the point at which resources become useful: board development, fundraising workshops, non-profit management classes, Starting Right: A Basic Guide to Museum Planning just to name a few things that are out there. Below is a list of resources that I used to get started.

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
Springboard for the Arts
Map for Nonprofits

Starting Right: A Basic Guide to Museum Planning
Running a Museum.pdf
American Association for State and Local History

Good luck!


Welcome to the official Hmong Museum of Minnesota: Hmong Museum Initiative website.

While it is rather plain for the time being, more is yet to come as we continue our flight into the future of dreaming reality. Whether you are new or just randomly flying by, take a look around – we will not bite you, promise!

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