By Stephani Maari Booker
Ta-coumba Aiken turned an audience into an artistic collective at a Feb. 28 “An Evening with tpt’s MN Original” event held at the Minnesota Humanities Center in St. Paul. The St. Paul-based artist instructed the participants to use cardboard cubes and magazines to create individual collages that “talk about your past, your present and your future… It’s about your life, the things that you value, the things that were important to you in the past [and what’s] related to your life now [and what you want] to go with you into the future.”
The event was part of a series presented by the Minnesota Humanities Center and Twin Cities Public Television (tpt) featuring artists profiled on tpt’s MN Original show. Ta-coumba Aiken earned his profile on the show through his four-decade career in visual art creation and education, which includes major public artworks in St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Aiken had everyone place their finished collages upon a group of colorful textiles that were spread on the floor, creating a unique, ephemeral work of art. He picked a few random collages and asked each individual who created them to explain the meaning of his or her work.
“The paintings you see that I do come from all of you, from my interactions with people,” Aiken said, “whether it’s positive or negative — it’s not negative to me because I take it and I use it, and I make it work. It’s not about art; it’s about heart, and how we use what we have to make it work.”
Aiken just recently earned a place in the Guinness World Records for creating the world’s largest Lite Brite picture: a mural in St. Paul’s Union Depot made up of about 600,000 Lite Brite pegs that are backlit to shine like the pictures created with the classic creative child’s toy.
“I’m known as ‘Mr. Lite-Brite’ now!” he declared at the An Evening with tpt’s Minnesota Original event. “I get asked to do really, really impossible things, and I’m like Mikey with the Life cereal — I will eat it! I will do it.”
For more information about “An Evening with tpt’s MN Original” events, contact the Minnesota Humanities Center at 651-774-0105 or www.mnhum.org/mno. For more information about Ta-coumba Aiken, go to http://ta-coumbaaik en.com.
Stephani Booker welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.