On Sunday, after months of preparation, students with Kulture Klub Collective will put their artistic expressions on full display.
MINNEAPOLIS — “This is a childhood dream of mine.”
Twenty-four-year-old Merhaba Mebrahtu has spent the last several months under the expert eye of designer Mimi Nguyen, learning how to make clothing for her and her two young kids.
“That’s something I really want to do – be able to make my own clothes for my children and I,” she said. “She’s teaching me I can do this.”
Nguyen, Mebrahtu’s teacher and the creative force behind her own two brands, LPF Vision and Melevated, is collaborating for the first time this year with Minneapolis nonprofit Kulture Klub Collective (KKC), an arts organization aimed at bringing together local youth experiencing homelessness.
“It’s really like a safe place for myself and my kids to escape from the realities of the real world – another safe place for myself to go to express myself through art,” Mebrahtu said.
Mebrahtu has been involved with KKC for some time now, honing in other mediums like jewelry-making and public speaking, but it’s on Tuesday nights with Nguyen that she’s able to make her childhood dream a reality.
“I really loved the idea of sewing, but Mimi taught me how to sew — I’ve never done it before. So, it’s been amazing. I learned this new talent within a couple of months with her support,” Mebrahtu said.
And on Sunday, after months of preparation, Mebrahtu and her peers will put their artistic expressions on full display when their designs are shown and later auctioned at the annual Heart of Arts Holiday Benefit in Minneapolis.
“This is really important,” Nguyen said, “and it’s kind of shaped some of them, you know? It’s like a family there. Every Tuesday I come in and it’s a joy. I enjoy my time and every moment I’m there with them.”
While a large part of the program is about students coming to find support and solidarity among their mentors and peers, it’s also about learning organizational, planning and communication skills they’ll carry with them on whatever future path they choose to pursue.
“We’re going to have people who have designed their own clothes, and so they’re learning the whole aspect of the fashion industry that says that they have to choose their models, they fit their models and they’re going to make the necessary adjustments,” said Siddeeqah Shabazz, executive director of KKC. “They’re choosing the music; they’re choosing their models, how they will be styled — an opportunity that they didn’t think they would ever have.”
But the event isn’t only about fashion: Music, poetry, drawings and other works of art will also be showcased.
“We also have youth that are going to perform original music that they sat down and wrote themselves, share and show a piece of them,” Shabazz added. “So they’re using music as a creative outlet to talk about their life, any pain, joy, fears — things like that — that love that they’ve gone through. We also have youth that are going to present visual arts and tell their stories, so we’re hitting a couple of different artistic outlets here. It’s just really great self-expression and advocacy.”
Shabazz has been at the helm of KKC since August of 2021, but her passion for youth advocacy spans over many years. It wasn’t until KKC, though, that she said she was really able to get her hands dirty, wearing many different hats under her ED title, and spending quality face time with the kids.
“They know who I am,” she said. “There’s no going through the red tape of some of the larger organizations that I’ve worked for, where you have to talk to this person and this person before you get to the person in charge. They can come directly to me if they need something. I am right there with the youth. They can see me. They have my number. They can call me if they need something — that’s what I’m here for.”
In addition to supporting the immediate KKC family, the Heart of Arts benefit will also accept donations of new and gently used clothing, toys and other supplies for kids as part of the nonprofit’s holiday drive.
“I’m really thankful for that place because it’s keeping me afloat mentally,” Mebrahtu said. “I think it’s really important that people do explore the arts because they have provided a place for me to heal, while being a parent and just trying to take care of myself as well.”
It’s with the support of mentors like Nguyen and Shabazz, that students like Mebrahtu are able to realize their full potential.
“I always told them, ‘You guys, the situation you are in right now does not define who you are in the future. You just gotta surround yourself around the right people and focus,’” Nguyen said.
Doors for the event will open at AxeBridge Wine Co. in Minneapolis’ North Loop at 4 p.m., followed by a runway show, silent auction and after party.
If you’re interested in attending, you can get tickets here. Part of the proceeds will go straight toward helping youth experiencing homelessness through KKC.
For more information about Kulture Klub Collective, visit their website here, or email them at info.kultureklub.org.
To learn more about Melevated Designs, visit Nguyen’s Instagram.
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