Media Arts Program

Tuesday, June 5 at 7:00 p.m.

Erin Sharkey presents

We Need to Talk - Episode 1: The Dollhouse

LEFT TO RIGHT: Andrea Pierre, Junauda Petrus, Aisha Mgeni, & Erin Sharkey.
In a community room outside the formal exhibit space at Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) sits an ornate 19th-century dollhouse whose intricate scenes and decorations have long fascinated Minneapolis resident Andrea Pierre and her two young daughters. Eventually, though, one of the girls noticed something: The only doll with her same skin color was hidden away back in the kitchen and posed as a servant, the single black doll in an otherwise all-white collection. Ms. Pierre saw this as a teachable moment—to talk about race, class, slavery, and the inequities intrinsic to our society.

Then one day soon after, with no fanfare or formal comment from the museum, the doll was no longer in the house. Its removal has sparked conversation between Andrea and three of her peers in the arts community—Junauda Petrus, Aisha Petrus, and Erin Sharkey, and has raised bigger questions surrounding racial representation in art and history.

What starts as a conversation about a doll quickly evolves into a much larger discussion about the issues facing Black women in America. The four discuss Sandra Bland, white Feminism and the Women's March, confederate monuments, and taking a knee during the national anthem. Artists themselves, they discuss the marginalization of African and African-American artwork in American museums, and in the process illuminate a unique opportunity for institutions like Mia to correct the course.

Consulting producer Erin Sharkey—who also appears in the episode—is a writer, producer, educator, and graphic designer based in Minneapolis. She is the co-founder, with Junauda Petrus, of an experimental arts production company called Free Black Dirt. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Walker Untitled, Brooklyn Quarterly, and Paper Darts. Erin was a 2016-17 Loft Mentor Series winner in creative nonfiction, 2017 and 2016 VONA/Voices Writing fellow, 2015 Givens fellow, and a Coffee House Press in the Stacks artist-in-residence at the Archie Givens Sr. Archive at the University of Minnesota. In 2018, Erin will be studying soil and the stars as an artist-in-residence at the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota, and traveling to Buffalo, NY to study black migration and urban farming on a 2018 Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant. She is producer for Sweetness of Wild, an episodic web film project, and We Need to Talk: The Dollhouse, a documentary short, teaches at the Loft Literary Center and is an educator with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop.

Free Black Dirt is an artistic partnership formed by Minneapolis based collaborators Junauda Petrus and Erin Sharkey. Committed to creating original theatre and performance, hosting innovative events, organizing local artists, and promoting and supporting the emerging artists’ community in the Twin Cities, Free Black Dirt seeks to spark and engage in critical conversations.

Learn more about We Need to Talk on Flow Nonfiction.