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Currently living in Egan, MN, Melvin R. and Rose J. Smith were residents of St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood for many years—Rose for most of her life and Melvin from 1963 to 1968. The Smiths’ artwork consists of urban scenes and portraits that present realist, expressionist, and at times allegorical takes on Black life in America. The works in this exhibition are drawn from their Rondo series—a sprawling body of work that stands as an elegiac anthem for that lost neighborhood and the enduring community that lives on in its wake.

Melvin Smith, “Combs Family,” 2003, paper collage.

From Melvin’s witty, unflinching collaged portraits and three-dimensional models of Rondo buildings to Rose’s touching portraits of family and joyful images of musicians, the work in the exhibition speaks to the complex gamut of life in Rondo and, by extension, the African American community writ large. Deeply committed to sharing the role of the Twin Cities in the larger history of civil rights, the Smiths insist this is more than a local story and that all of America needs to remember Rondo.

The Smiths have shown their work nationally for the past thirty-five years. Their artwork currently focuses on Minnesota and its largely unknown role in the American Civil Rights Movement and beyond. Focusing on their own lived experiences, the Smiths’ art offers an intimate view of everyday Black life in Rondo, and the rich histories embedded in those experiences. Their desire to preserve and trumpet the travails and triumphs of their community is testimony of their devotion to it. The Weisman is honored to present Remembering Rondo, illuminating and celebrating two of our state and region’s most important and prolific artists.