Suggestions for Higher Education

In a “call to educators,” Wing asked higher education instructors to provide information on how they have used his photographs in their seminars and lecture halls. Here are examples of college courses, projects, workshops, etc. that have been used in the past.

American Studies Department, University of Minnesota, SooJin Pate, Ph.D. candidate, 2009

Title:   Race, Migration, and Diversity in MN
Assignment:   Compare and contrast the photographs of Minnesotans in Frogtown and Lake Street, USA by Wing Young Huie and Looking for Lake Wobegone by Garrison Keillor and Richard Olsenius.
Course Description:   What does diversity have to do with Minnesota?  With the iconic image of Lake Wobegon, along with the fact that almost 90% of the Minnesota population is designated as racially “white,” Minnesota is rarely thought of as a site of diversity.  Stories of Lake Wobegon and other popular portrayals of Minnesota, however, elide this state’s diverse history.  To think of Minnesota as white not only erases its racially and culturally diverse heritage, but it also ignores the changing face of Minnesota.  According to the 2000 Census, Minnesota has the most diverse Black population in the nation.  In addition, it has the largest Hmong, Somali, and Liberian communities in the U.S.; one of the largest urban American Indian populations; a growing Chicano/Latino population; and per capita, the largest number of Korean adoptees.  Minnesota can be seen as a microcosm of the U.S.  Our examination of this state will help us to understand the larger social, political, economic, and cultural shifts of the U.S.

Given this alternative “face” of Minnesota, we begin this class with a simple but profound premise: that Minnesota is diverse.  As a result, our task will be to examine how different racial groups have contributed to the making and remaking of not only Minnesota but also America and the definition of “American.”  In so doing, we will be challenging our core assumptions about race, difference, empire, native, migrant, and citizen.

We will not only explore how Latinas, American Indians, Asian Americans, Africans, African Americans, and white Americans have shaped our history and society but also how institutions, policies, and social formations (such as race, gender, and class) affect the various kinds of relationships that these groups have with each other.  Some of the questions we will be asking in this course are: What causes divisions among racial groups? What conditions allow for coalition-building? In what ways has multiculturalism fostered and/or hindered interracial relationships? We will address these issues and questions by looking at visual art, literature, and film.


College Assignment:   Cultural Perspectives (suggested by Allison Adrian, Ph.D. Ethnomusicology)

This is an exercise in perspective (or epistemology & ontology):
Ask students to interpret a photo from the exhibit and form their own narratives. Write a (creative) story. What do you see? What are the people in the photograph feeling? (Example: The subject appears to be lonely to a student. How might an observer interpret the emotion differently depending on their experiences? How do we know what we know and how are we what we are?)
Compare and contrast the multiple points of view.
How do the interpretations mirror the students’ own cultural experiences?
What are the impacts of photographs on culture, given that most of what is seen on a daily basis is driven by the media and marketing?
Compare and contrast student narratives with some of the narratives provided by Wing Young Huie that accompanies photographs, which gives some background, context, as well as Wing’s observations.


Sheryl Hess, PH.D Candidate, Instructional Design

I used the image below from Lake Street, U.S.A. in a 10-item survey created for a graduate course that focused on evaluating curriculum. The purpose of the survey was to see how people interpreted images; how images spoke to them.
The best word to describe this image is:  1. Loneliness 2. Community 3. Frustration.
Lake Street USA, 1998 Wing Young Huie

* Reponses: Loneliness 10%
* Community 52%
* Frustration 38%

I chose your images because they reflected humanity and felt they would be relatable to the viewers. Thank you for creating remarkable images.


Katrina Vandenberg, Poet

When I used to teach creative writing at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, I used the Frogtown book in a class about different forms of visual and literary documentary. In that course, the students created documentary projects in the medium of their choice. We used the book to talk about the effect sequence has on the way one understands images or text; we also used the book to talk about how Wing might have established trust with his subjects, as many of them were taken by the unguardedness and intimacy of the photographs.

Later that semester, in another class, and in what I initially thought was an unrelated exercise, I sent out students in pairs to Nicollet Avenue, to one of the many small businesses on that street. They were to try a new food, and come back to us with a story. The story was to be the experience itself, enhanced by talking to the people who worked in the store or restaurant about the food -- its context, what country the food or person came from, who made it, etc. I thought the exercise was a simple one in expanding boundaries and taking small risks, but I ended up bringing up Frogtown, and my students and I ended up having the same conversation again. How do you establish trust with strangers -- not to manipulate them, but because you want to know them? How could learning to establish trust help them as artists? How might you ask a stranger to let you take a photograph of her? For example, we talked about how, if two students are asking questions of a restaurant owner, and the students are giggling, the students may just be feeling shy, but the restaurant owner may feel made fun of, and less willing to open up.

I now teach poetry in the graduate program at Hamline University. I could see having my poets visit The University Avenue Project and applying its structure to the structure of a long poem, or to the sequence of a set of poems on a single subject, or to find a photograph to use as the jumping-off point for a poem. The order in which one presents poems in a collection has always fascinated me; here's a link to an article I wrote about it for Poets and Writers:    Putting Your Poetry in Order: The Mix-Tape Strategy

Copyright © 2019 The University Avenue Project