Hmong American Institute for Learning (HAIL) is an arts organization. Our mission is to promote and inspire artistic expressions of Hmong culture. We seek to build a vibrant and thriving Hmong creative community that draws from both traditional and contemporary forms of Hmong art.
Art is vital to the survival of any people including the Hmong. They have a long tradition of integrating art into their lives in order to provide for and educate their families. The Hmong were thrust into modernity when forced to seek refuge after the United States pulled out of Vietnam in 1975. Hmong is an ethnic minority from Laos where they aided the United States in a CIA-sponsored Secret War against the spread of communism in Southeast Asia.
For a Hmong person, if you didn’t know how to weave and sew, you couldn’t clothe your family. If you couldn’t tell a story, it would be difficult to entertain your family and at the same time pass on your family’s traditions, rituals, and history--the Hmong didn't have a writing system until the 1950's. If you couldn’t artistically adorn traditional clothing with needlework or fashion jewels using blacksmithing, you couldn't look your best during the Hmong New Year Celebration. Blacksmithing was also essential for making eating utensils and work tools. If you didn’t sing or play an instrument, you didn’t have a creative way to court a future husband or wife. Music also played an important role for passage of a soul into the realm of the ancestors during funerals. Finally, having an artistic skill enabled you to barter and trade for services.
Art was and is essential for all areas of life for the Hmong, and without it one couldn't survive. At HAIL, we still believe art to be a vital component to community building. Today, art remains crucial for the Hmong as we assimilate to American culture and living in the age of technology. We are adding new art forms to our repertoire, further contributing to the cultural experiences of the communities we live in. HAIL is at the forefront of contemporary Hmong American art.