| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

diversity : Development News

43 diversity Articles | Page: | Show All

Little Mekong Night Market moves and expands in August

Last summer, the Little Mekong Night Market, a project of the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) in St. Paul, debuted, introducing the Twin Cities to the vibrancy of the markets that are a common occurrence across Asia. “There’s a unique vibe and energy that happens when people are hanging out at night, in the summer, at a festive event that’s intergenerational and family friendly,” says artist organizer Oskar Ly, who helped coordinate last year’s night markets.
 
In fact, MSP’s first night market, Ly recalls, was such a hit that “people kept coming back with their families and friends to check out all the night markets in Little Mekong. People have said they felt as though they were transported into a different country for the evening.”
 
This year, the Little Mekong Night Market will be held Friday, August 7, from 6 p.m. to midnight, and Saturday, August 8, from 4 p.m. to midnight. The location, however, has changed. “We’re moving the night market from the parking lot behind Mai Village to the street, and closing off Western Avenue from Charles to Aurora,” says Jeffrey Whitman, event manager, Little Mekong Night Market, AEDA.
 
“We’re also moving the main stage across the street into a parking lot, so we have more space to spread out,” he adds. “Last year, we were really tucked into a nook. Surveys showed that people needed more room, and also wanted to have greater exposure and catch more passersby off the Green Line. We listened.”
 
This year’s vendors will include Dangerous Productions (a nonprofit performing arts group), the fashion truck Style A Go-Go, novelty accessories by Designs by RedFireFly, Luce Quilts, Nuclear Nectar’s hot sauces, Pho-Ger’s kimchee fries, Lilly Bean Ice Desserts, LolaRosa's Filipino-inspired food, RedGreen Rivers’ traditional Hmong fair trade crafts, and Silhouette Bakery’s sweet and savory Japanese buns.
 
Also, Ly says, “We’re expanding the diversity of arts that will be showcased. We have 100 groups of artists, art activities, and traditional and contemporary performances planned.”

Performances by Mayda, Str8 2th, Hmong Breakers Leadership Council, Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli, Capoeira Fitness Academy,
Hmong Cultural Center Qeej Troupe, Xibaba Brazilian and World Jazz are scheduled. The arts activities will be spearheaded by Humans of Night Market by Hmongkee Business, Greetings from Night Market by Hmongkee Business, SparkIt,
Chicks on Sticks, Hoop Jams and other groups.

The Little Mekong Night Market was started last year as part of AEDA’s mission to help small and micro-businesses take off and flourish. “The night market is really about buying local, from people who live in the neighborhood,” Whitman says. “Some of the vendors come from outside the community, but the majority of them live and work right here. The market supports the neighborhood and brings in people to see what Little Mekong has to offer.”
 
In addition to functioning as an economic development initiative, Ly adds that the market is also a “placemaking effort for Little Mekong. It’s part of our rebranding of the district, in order to further revitalize the area, bring in new visitors, and entice people to come back—again and again.”
 

Dance, law and beer grow on the Green Line

Along the Green Line light-rail corridor, which opened in June 2014, business continues to grow as arts organizations, breweries and small offices either set up shop or expand along University Avenue. In St. Paul, they include the multi-cultural modern dance company TU Dance; the Mendoza Law Office, which specializes in nonprofits and cable/telecom communications; and Lake Monster Brewing, which joins the brewery boom in the Creative Enterprise Zone. Here’s what they have to say about being an invested part of the Green Line community.
 
TU Dance
 
As The Line reported in 2013, Toni Pierce-Sands, co-founder of TU Dance, rode the bus to dance classes as a child. “So when she and her husband, dancer and choreographer Uri Sands, were founding their St. Paul-based dance company TU Dance in 2004, Pierce-Sands says she ‘envisioned young kids waiting on the corner for a bus that would take them to our dance school.’”
 
Today, that school is called TU Dance Center. And the kids ride not only the bus, but also the light rail. Founded in 2011 in a rehabbed former woodworking and cabinetry shop, the professional dance school is located between a Subway and an auto-repair shop on Green Line. Since opening, the center’s programming has been steadily growing to meet the needs of students seeking out the Sands’ singular mix of creative movement/drum classes, and ballet, modern and West African dance.
 
So much so, that the TU Dance Center has added another 2,000 square feet of space upstairs. Known as TU Dance Center Studio 2, the second floor includes a new dance studio with a sprung floor, ballet barres, piano and drums, and sound system; new restrooms and changing rooms, and administrative offices.
 
“Having grown to more than 150 students in our youth programs, our current expansion to a second studio space meets a critical need for offering classes at multiple levels and techniques in the limited after-school time slot that works for families,” says Sands. Rather than move to a new location, the couple decided to remain in their current building and expand.
 
“We believe the opportunity to experience dance is transformative — for audiences, for students, for our community,” explains Pierce-Sand. “To make that opportunity real, dance classes need to be accessible. Our location on the Green Line is one key aspect of that commitment."
 
Mendoza Law Office
 
“I have a lot of optimism about the Green Line corridor and how the area is going to grow in the coming years,” says Tony Mendoza, who recently moved his law practice, Mendoza Law Office, LLC, into the 1000 University Avenue building. While looking for a new location for his growing practice, which was previously located along the Blue Line, Mendoza studied the avenue and noticed “buildings being refurbished and lots of new businesses,” he says.
 
University Avenue also offered the convenience of hopping on the train to either downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul for meetings. Then he noticed 1000 University. The 1929 building has exposed brick and timber beams, as well as spacious common areas. “We were also able to design the space we wanted,” he adds.
 
After law school, Mendoza joined Fredrickson & Byron’s advertising and entertainment group, and began working in communications. He later worked for the administration of Governor Ventura as a deputy commerce commissioner for telecommunications. Eleven years ago, he opened his own practice specializing in cable, telecom and entertainment law.
 
“There’s a lot regulatory uncertainty and change right now in the area of broadband development,” Mendoza explains. “Comcast is one of my clients. They’re spinning off their systems here to a company called GreatLand Communications, which has generated quite a bit of work in terms of getting regulatory approvals for the transfer and spin off, and franchises they have to negotiate with cities where they operate, many of which have been coming up for renewal to provide their video services.”
 
Mendoza also works with startups, small businesses and nonprofits. “We’re getting involved with the Midwest Business Association with the hopes of helping more local businesses get started and organized,” he says. “We’re looking for symbiotic relationships where we can help each other grow, especially along University Avenue.”
 
Lake Monster Brewing
 
After scouting dozens of locations for Lake Monster Brewing, which he co-owns with Jeremy Maynor and brewer Matt Lange, Matt Zanetti decided on the 550 Vandalia Street property adjacent to the Green Line. Located a block off I94, in the Creative Enterprise Zone, Zanetti was taken with the convenience of the site, as well as with the massive building itself.
 
“We’ll have a 170-spot parking lot,” he enthuses, and the brewery, which may open this fall, is also a block from the Raymond Avenue stop on the Green Line. “The building itself is historic and amazing, with red brick and steel girders.” What about all of the other new breweries in the area, including Bang, Urban Growler and Surly?
 
“The day after we signed the lease we took a case a beer and went to Urban Growler and Bang,” Zanetti says. “We’re really excited to be a part of the growing microbrewery scene in the Creative Enterprise Zone. We’re another destination people can enjoy.”
 
Lake Monster will also be the first and anchor tenant in the building (owned by First & First), which Zanetti says will create a lot of buzz. “Our tanks have arrived, but a lot of site work still needs to be done,” he says. “We’ll have two patios, as well as a 2500-square-foot taproom. We’ll have a nice big bar, soft spaces for relaxing, high tops, low tables… we want our taproom to be approachable!”
 
In addition to its two flagship beers, the Calhoun Claw Pilsener and the Empty Rowboat IPA, the brewery will also begin working on crafting some traditional beers with new twists.
 

Cooperative real estate model goes national

Three years ago, the Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) was created to allow people to collectively buy, renovate, and manage commercial and residential property. Despite a mix of restaurants and retail businesses on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis, and the adaptive reuse of former industrial buildings into the immensely popular 612 Broadway and Crown Center nearby, the area has a history of rundown storefronts and absentee landlords. NEIC is changing all that.
 
With nearly $300,000 in member investments, and having transformed 2504-06 at the corner of Central and Lowry avenues into a successful building with thriving tenants, NEIC is sharing its innovative cooperative model nationally. Already, in New York City, inspired residents formed their own co-op modeled after NEIC — NYC Real Estate Investment Cooperative — and more than 200 people immediately invested.
 
In February, an article in Yes! Magazine about NEIC went viral. Since then, the first commercial-property cooperative in the United States has been happily fielding inquiries from groups across the country, and board members will be speaking at conferences in St. Louis, Phoenix and Milwaukee on NEIC’s innovative business model. The appeal, explains Loren Schirber, a NEIC board member, is the opportunity to make a difference locally.
 
“People who have a vested interest in their neighborhood see the cooperative, commercial real estate model as an accessible way to make that difference and get a lot of other people involved,” Schirber says, and there’s more. “Kickstarter, Go Fund Me, Facebook and other social media and crowdfunding sites have changed how we do marketing and communications, so real estate investment opportunities are becoming more localized and accessible to people. This is the next logical step, because people don’t simply donate, they see where their money goes, what it’s doing and take ownership in the process.”
 
The cooperative real estate model also takes our new cultural emphasis on the local and bespoke — whether beer, food or handmade goods — further, Schirber continues. “How you save for retirement or invest is a logical extension of trying to be more conscious of what to do with your money and the influence you have. So with NEIC, we tackled an eyesore in the neighborhood we wanted to see changed. That resonated with local people…. and word traveled.”
 
Through NEIC’s cooperative structure, any Minnesota resident could join for $1,000. They could also invest more by purchasing non-voting stock. After a year of seeking investors, NEIC purchased two buildings on Central Avenue. Aki’s BreadHaus and Fair State Brewing Cooperative opened in 2014. NEIC’s partner, Recovery Bike Shop, is located next door. In total, the project represents more than a million dollars in new investment on Central Avenue.
 
“We spent thousands of hours getting started, fine tuning our bylaws, figuring out our structures, setting things up,” Schirber says. “Sharing that information with other groups, to make the process easier for them, is a principal of cooperative ownership.” So far, groups located in places from Seattle to Silver Spring, Maryland, Northern California to Cincinnati, Ohio, Texas to Washington D.C., have contacted NEIC for information.
 
Meanwhile, NEIC is avidly seeking a second property to bring to investors, and holding three information sessions and happy hours to discuss past successes and future plans: 
June 4: Info session at Eastside Food Co-op (7-8 p.m.), happy hour at Fair State Brewing Co-op (8-9 p.m.)
July 16: Info session at Narobi Market (7-8 p.m.), happy hour at Fair State Brewing Co-op (8-9 p.m.)
August 13: Info session at TBD (7-8 p.m.), happy hour at Fair State Brewing Co-op (8-9 p.m.)
 
“People have plenty of opportunities to become a minority investor,” Schirber says. “But from a tenant, investment and neighborhood standpoint, a cooperative model offers people more accessibility, control, ownership and a tangible reason for success.”
 

SPRC's 4th annual Placemaking Residency focuses on healthy cities

 
“The connection between place and health isn’t an intuitive one,” says Patrick Seeb, executive director, St. Paul Riverfront Corporation (SPRC). The fourth annual Placemaking Residency hosted by SPRC, May 11-15, hopes to forge that connection in the Twin Cities.
 
Titled “Moving the Twin Cities to Better Health,” the weeklong event will explore the relationship between urban design and population health through workshops, walking and biking tours, presentations and social events. Events will take place on St. Paul’s East Side, along University Avenue and in the Ecodistrict in Downtown St. Paul, as well as in the East Downtown area of Minneapolis and the South Loop of Bloomington.
 
“Well be out in the community, moving around the Twin Cities throughout the day and into the evening, in order to be interdisciplinary and so that participants — including urban planners, community activists, health experts and policy makers — can find different ways to engage,” Seeb says.
 
In past years, the residency has featured one key speaker focusing on a single topic. Last year the focus was on walkability and bikeability in the cities. The year before, the residency topic was place as a driver of economic investment. The first year, arts and culture as a strategy for place was the focus.
 
This year, three residents — all from the San Francisco area — will “enrich the conversation,” Seeb explains. Dr. Richard Jackson is the author of Designing Healthy Communities and the host of the PBS series of the same name. “He’s made a career out of studying the built environment and its impact on health,” Seeb says.
 
Gehl Studio is the San Francisco-based office of Gehl Architects. The firm’s work is cross-disciplinary, and incorporates architecture, urban design and city planning in projects around the world. “The studio focuses on changes we can make right now,” Seeb says. “Rather than thinking about long-term change, the studio specializes in immediate solutions. The Open Streets movement came out of their shop.”
 
The third resident, Dr. Anthony Iton, is senior vice president for healthy communities at The California Endowment. “His work helps people understand geographic, racial and wealth disparities throughout the U.S.,” Seeb explains. “He’ll present data about how your zip code can predict your expected lifespan.”
 
“In the past 40 to 50 years, the focus on cars, people feeling unsafe walking or biking to work or school, and food deserts are among the concerns that have emerged relating to health and cities,” Seeb says. “There’s a whole field of thinking that says we can change all that; that we can reduce childhood obesity if neighborhoods and streets are safe for kids to walk or bike to school, where they have access to healthy fresh local food.”  
 
“With this placemaking residency focused on healthy cities, we hope to expose people to the topic and get them to look at MSP and the choices we make in our cities through the lens of health,” Seeb continues. “The question is: How can we be much more intentional about creating a safe and healthy future in our cities?”
 
 

MTN joins creative mix in Northeast Minneapolis

 
 
After 22 years in St. Anthony Main along the Mississippi riverfront in downtown Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) is relocating to Northeast. On April 1, MTN will be joining the other entrepreneurial businesses, artists and creative industries currently in the Thorp Building, which is also a hub during the annual art festival Art-A-Whirl.
 
“As a creative media organization with a long history of serving the various communities in Minneapolis, we’re excited to move to the Thorp Building in Northeast in the middle of a thriving arts district,” says Michael Fallon, MTN’s executive director. Northeast Minneapolis was named the best arts district in the U.S. by USA Today.
 
“There’s so much potential for us in this neighborhood as we’ll be right in the thick of things, serving the community in the way public access television is meant to serve,” Fallon adds.
 
MTN’s mission is to “empower diverse Minneapolis residents seeking to connect to the larger community through the media,” according to its website. “We provide low-expense training for anyone who wants to learn to use the media,” Fallon adds.
 
MTN is largely supported through the Public Access Education and Government Channels (PEG) fees attached to cable subscribers. Over the years, the organization has given artists, comedians, community activists and numerous groups a platform for their work.
 
MTN’s studios have launched such talents as Fancy Ray McCloney, Viva and Jerry Beck (of the show “Viva and Jerry’s Country Music Videos”), Rich Kronfeld (of “The Choo Choo Bob Show”), “Mary Hanson (of “The Mary Hanson Show,” which is “one of longest running public access talk shows in the country,” Fallon says) and Ian Rans (of “Drinking with Ian”). MTN also broadcasts city government meetings and has given the growing Somali community a place to produce public-affairs shows that reach other immigrants. 
 
The new space will include staff offices; equipment rental; two fully equipped, community-focused television studios (with cameras, lights and a green screen) and video editing suites; a Youtube set-up for fast and easy studio productions; and a multipurpose classroom and public gathering area.
 
“We already been reaching out to the Northeast community and potential collaborations and we’re working on a partnership with [the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association] NEMAA,” Fallon says. “ We expect to fit right in and to become an essential part of the Northeast’s creative mix.”
 
 
 

Youth responses to art and identity enliven MMAA windows

 
The Pioneer Endicott in downtown St. Paul has undergone a significant transformation in the last year. The three-building complex includes the two, six-story Endicott buildings constructed in 1890 — and designed by renowned architect Cass Gilbert, who officed there for 20 years — on either side of the Pioneer building, which was built in 1889 to house the St. Paul Pioneer Press. All of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
 
While the upper floors have been renovated into apartments, and the second is home to a wine shop, the street level in the Pioneer is home to the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA). Since moving into its “project space,” MMAA has mounted a number of significant exhibitions. But the museum has also creatively networked with an array of St. Paul organizations to expand its presence throughout the city — including co-presenting a theater production last summer that occurred on and around the Green Line light rail.
 
On view until mid-April, in the Pioneer Endicott’s large windows, between 4th and 5th streets, is another of these efforts: the photographic results of a collaboration among the museum and two youth-oriented non-profit organizations, St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) and In Progress. The photographs were created by teen participants in Set It Up (a SPNN afterschool program), after they met with St. Paul artist Julie Buffalohead.
 
The students visited an exhibition of Buffalohead’s work, titled “Coyote Dreams,” at the MMAA, and talked with the artist about her process and artwork. (The show closed February 22.) “We had the students work with Julie because her art deals with themes that are very relevant to teenagers, such as feeling left out of cliques, not being good enough, struggling with identity,” explains Christina Chang, MMAA’s Curator of Engagement.
 
Buffalohead’s work, which has been exhibited throughout the U.S., also playfully and pointedly deals with motherhood, American Indian identity and popular culture. “SPNN has limited access to real working artists, exposure to whom is really crucial to young aspiring artists,” Chang adds. SPNN offers Set It Up youth various opportunities to use media and communications to empower themselves. While the program focuses on video production, it has evolved to include other media such as photography.
 
At the end of the exhibition tour and discussion, Buffalohead suggested the students create a photo project that reflected “the playfulness of childhood.” After meeting with mentors to brainstorm ideas around the theme, each student submitted a photo in response to the exhibition. The MMAA then worked with In Progress, a youth-oriented nonprofit that offers large format printing at a reasonable cost, to produce the final works for the windows.
 
One of the students, Darartu Tashoma, says that, “For me, it was inspiring to think back to my own childhood, and to think back on some of the stories of what I did as a kid. Julie’s art made me think about all our similarities that we have when we're children."
 
Adds Kevin Kalla, SPNN’s Youth Programs Coordinator, “Meeting Julie and hearing about her work was inspiring because she was very real in the way she talked about her art. She talked about the struggle of figuring out your identity, of being torn between two cultures and not being fully accepted by either. She talked about art as a way to process some of these emotions that are difficult to express. And she also talked about motherhood and how having a child inspired some of the more playful aspects of her work. I think that many of the youth in Set It Up found something to relate to in what she said, and were interested in the way that art could be used to explore some pretty complex ideas.”
 
The collaboration with MMAA was a first for SPNN. “While Set It Up has done photo projects in the past, this is the first time we've done a photographic response to an art exhibit,” Kalla continues. “The youth in Set It Up were able to have an authentic connection with an artist. They were able to collaborate with a local arts institution. And they had the honor of having their work displayed in public.”
 
“This project was a tremendously valuable experience for the young people in Set It Up, and that final piece — visiting the museum again and seeing their work on display in the windows — really made them feel like they were part of something bigger.”
 

A prize-winning proposal for an unused Midway site

An unused parcel of land between the Gordon Parks Alternative High School and the High School of Recording Arts in the Midway area of St. Paul has become the site of a prize-winning vision for community redevelopment. Pablo Villamil of Wold Architects & Engineers and David McKay of Strand Design, both in St. Paul, recently won First Place in the 2014 AIA St. Paul Prize design competition for their proposed outdoor education and community space. The design “is about making a place for the people who live there,” Villamil says.
 
Villamil and McKay entered the competition because “both of us are familiar with the area,” Villamil says. McKay lived in Midway for many years. Wold Architects & Engineers designed the Gordon Parks school. “So we know the layers of community and history in the area, as well as the users,” Villamil says. “That was a big part of our design: identifying and creating a park for the community.”
 
The 2.44-acre parcel, which is surrounded by the schools, retail stores, warehouses, office buildings and parking lots, includes a large hill. “We had to figure out how to make the site function across that elevation change, and make it accessible so residents and people from the schools can meet and connect in the space,” Villamil says.
 
The team’s vision includes an enclosed classroom recessed into the hillside for the Gordon Parks school. A second outdoor classroom for interactive education would allow the school and the public to focus on renewable resources and energy. The team also proposed an outdoor amphitheater terraced into the hillside for the Recording Arts school. The site would also include fields of native prairie plants and flowers, a playing field and plazas.
 
“Education is a big part of the project,” Villamil explains. “We wanted to create places the schools could share, spaces that function for the individual schools, and areas in which residents could receive public education about native habitats, green technologies and renewable resources.” The team’s vision also invites the surrounding community into the space for gardening, gatherings and events.
 
As for whether the team’s vision will be fully realized, that remains to be seen. As winners of the St. Paul Prize, Villamil says, he and McKay will be interacting with stakeholders at formal events and at informal gatherings. “We’re really looking forward to their feedback."
 

HWY North popup brings locally made to Hamline-Midway

“It's hard to put into words what feeling we are going for,” says Emily Anderson. “Fun, unique items that make you smile and want to do a happy dance.” Do not, however, expect any mass-manufactured Snoopy’s in Anderson’s new pop-up shop in the Hamline-Midway area of St. Paul. Her new popup shop, HWY North, only carries locally made goods that Anderson carefully curates.
 
“I am emphasizing Minnesota made goods because a) it resonates with my desire to buy local, b) supports our neighborhood artists, and c) hopefully creates a space where the many creative geniuses in our awesome cities can come together, share their talents, and perhaps collaborate to make something bigger than would otherwise have been possible,” she explains.
 
Anderson opened HWY North after noticing a retail space for rent in her neighborhood. A crowd-funding campaign helped cover the costs of setting up shop. Anderson has a background in visual art and public art, with an emphasis in art education and museum studies. She explains that she’s “always been driven through the arts, but over time I've realized that more than being an artist, I am an appreciator of the arts.”
 
For a long time, she envisioned opening a shop “that offers the public a place to see the talent within the immediate area, as well as a place to come together, have a sense of community and make.” To that end, HWY North has a regular schedule of classes for kids and adults ranging from sewing a tote bag to creating a Ukrainian egg ornament to making holiday cards.
 
The workshops, Anderson says, “encourage others to become makers by showing them new/old/forgotten skills, and by getting them ready to continue making beautiful things with their hands. Did you know studies have shown that being creative is essential to mental health? We bump that up a notch by also providing a fabulous community for making. It's all pretty great.”
 
Anderson finds HWY North’s bespoke shirts, jewelry, toys, art and home furnishings through local craft fairs. “But people are starting to contact me directly, which is exciting,” she says. She and group of collaborators discuss which items fit best with HWY North’s aesthetic, a continual work in progress, she says.
 
HWY North’s lease runs through March, Anderson says, “however, I would love to extend the lease if the store is successful.”
 

Union Depot muralist honored with installation and exhibition

In 2005, Atlanta-based painter Ralph Gilbert received a fellowship in mural painting from the National Academy of Design Museum. His topic was the multicultural history of Minnesota railroads. The destination for his six murals was St. Paul’s Union Depot. After Gilbert conducted extensive historical research, he spent seven months painting the panels, working on them at the same time to ensure continuity in style.
 
On Thursday, from 6-8 p.m., the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) will guide visitors from its Project Space in downtown St. Paul to Gilbert’s murals, which are on display on the west wall of the Grand Waiting Room at Union Depot. Concurrently, MMAA is showcasing an exhibition “Ralph Gilbert: Studies for Union Depot,” through December 7. The show includes selections from Gilbert’s preparatory work including 10 drawings, four watercolors, four oil sketches on panel, and nine oil paintings.
 
The niches at Union Depot that hold Gilbert’s murals are tall and narrow, measuring 16-feet high by six-feet wide, with arched tops. “The challenge for Gilbert,” according to a press release issued by MMAA, “was developing each composition within the unconventional proportions.”
 
The concurrent exhibition at MMAA’s Project Space, says Christina Chang, Curator of Engagement, MMAA, “presents a very small selection of Ralph’s extensive process, and also shows how he worked through ‘problems’ or compositional challenges. It’s a unique opportunity to see these materials so close at hand to the finished work.”
 
Gilbert’s subject matter includes the Mississippi River and the Dakota tribe that made way for white settlement; Union Depot’s historical connection to the former Rondo community; the arrival of European immigrants to Minnesota via Union Depot; and the deployment of soldiers from the Union Depot during two world wars.
 
MMAA’s collaboration with Union Depot represents a long-held desire to engage the Depot’s commitment to public art with MMAA’s dedication to strengthening its connection to Lowertown, Chang says. “The exhibition presented the perfect opportunity to do so. It’s rare to have an exhibition of preparatory work so close to the final piece, especially with public art, so we’re hopping visitors will take advantage of the opportunities to see both venues on the same trip.”
 
Chang adds that mural installation, in concert with MMAA’s exhibition, brings well-warranted attention to Gilbert and his work. “So often, artists are lost in the history behind public art.”
 
 
 

Sioux Chef brings indigenous cuisine to Minneapolis

Minneapolis-based chef and Oglala Lakota member Sean Sherman is about to open the Sioux Chef, a first-of-its-kind restaurant that will serve locally sourced “pre-colonization” cuisine. Sherman is in the final stages of selecting a space, most likely along Seward’s Franklin Avenue or along East Lake Street. He wants to be “as close as possible to the heart of the Twin Cities’ indigenous community,” he says.
 
Depending on the condition of the space, the Sioux Chef’s doors could be open as early as December, but the first quarter of 2015 is more likely. When the restaurant opens, Sioux Chef will be the first in the country to serve a menu comprised exclusively of regional indigenous dishes that only use ingredients available prior to first contact with European settlers.
 
Sherman’s approached means no wheat, soy or other staples we currently take for granted. In addition to bison, elk, duck, perch and other fish and game species—often dried or cooked over an open flame—Sherman will incorporate such native plants as wild rice, wild turnips, chokecherries and sumac berries.
 
His flavors and technique are pitch-perfect. Though indigenous populations were decimated during the 19th and 20th centuries, there remains a strong cultural memory among older Lakota, Ojibwe and others. “People constantly tell me that my dishes taste like what their grandparents made,” he says.
 
One concession to modern realities: The Sioux Chef won’t serve wild-caught game, says Sherman, due to a lack of available processing facilities capable of satisfying health authorities. The restaurant’s bison and elk, among other species, will come from nearby ranches.
 
Nor will Sherman be dogmatic in his approach. “First contact” is a blurrier concept than many realize, he says. For example, dandelions probably arrived on the Eastern Seaboard with the first wave of white explorers and spread across the continent within 50 years, far faster than the Europeans who brought them. So Native Americans may have cooked with them long before setting eyes on the first settler—and that’s good enough for Sherman.
 
The Sioux Chef concept arose accidentally, when Sherman—then La Bodega’s executive chef—decided to write a traditional Lakota cookbook. After some digging, he realized there was very little recorded information about what the Lakota ate before Europeans arrived. Most of the recipes he found were from the Southwest. Even those “were basically Tex-Mex with some Native influence,” he says. Supposedly authentic foods from the Upper Midwest, like fry bread, only appeared after the introduction of white flour and other European staples.
 
Traveling extensively across Minnesota and his native Dakotas, Sherman eventually pieced together an exhaustive list—“too many to count”—of native plants, fungi and game species used by pre-colonial populations. He also researched traditional preparation and preservation techniques, like meat dehydration.
 
Until the restaurant opens this winter, the Sioux Chef is a mobile catering and education unit. Sherman travels to food-, health- and Native American-themed events throughout the Twin Cities and the greater Midwest, serving locally sourced dishes (some of which may appear on the Sioux Chef’s restaurant menu) and explaining his approach to pre-colonization cooking. Recent appearances include a diabetes conference and traditional medicine gathering
 
So far, Sherman says, support for the Sioux Chef is beyond what he expected. He was in Ohio last weekend for Roots 2014, a major gathering of celebrity chefs and nutrition experts, and “a huge deal for the Sioux Chef’s exposure,” he says.
 
Public enthusiasm may lead to bigger things for the Sioux Chef. “After I get the restaurant going, my ultimate goal is to hone this business model and expand with additional locations under different names,” he says. Since naturally available ingredients vary so much from place to place—“even from here to the other side of Wisconsin, the availability is totally different,” he says—the food at pre-colonization restaurants would vary widely from city to city.
 
“It’s funny that you can get food from almost anywhere in the world [in the Twin Cities],” he adds. “The only food you can’t get yet is the food that came from right here.” Sioux Chef will change that.
 
 
 

Frame by Frame shop provides gallery space in Dow Building

Within the unassuming Dow Building at 2242 University Avenue in St. Paul are studios in which more than 30 painters, woodworkers, metalworkers and photographers create their work. Now an innovative framing business with a unique model is giving the inner creativity of the Dow Building an outwardly visible face.
 
Khanh Tran opened Frame by Frame in the building’s storefront in September and plans to have his frame shop double as a gallery for artists in the Dow Building. Rather than take a commission on works that sell out of the shop, he charges artists a flat monthly rate to display their work. So far, 16 artists from the building have taken him up on the offer.
 
A frame shop needs artwork to frame and display, while artists need a clean, sleek space to show and sell their work. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” Tran says. He designed the space with crisp white walls and professional grade track lighting.
 
As a tenant of the Dow Building for several years, Tran had been watching the storefront space for some time. He previously rented a small studio in the building to store his framing equipment while pursuing other interests. He developed relationships with many of the artists and makers in the building during that time, making the new gallery arrangement a natural fit.
 
Tran credits his entrepreneurial spirit to his parents. His father was a tailor, his mother a seamstress. Together, they built Tran’s Tailors, a chain of tailor shops throughout the Twin Cities. “They worked hard for it,” Tran says. “It’s not easy to open five businesses from nothing. That’s where I get my drive.”
 
The Trans’ family story of success in the face of adversity began on a boat in the Pacific Ocean in 1978. Looking to escape war-torn Vietnam, Khanh’s father saved what little money he could and bought a 30-foot boat. He boarded his 4-year old son and 20 other children and 10 adults to set out for a more prosperous life. “He wanted to escape Vietnam for the better,” Tran say.
 
The boat arrived in Japan and the passengers were moved to a refugee camp, where eventually they were given entry visas to the U.S. The family again packed up their belongings and headed for Bloomington, Minnesota, where Khanh’s uncle lived. Khanh Tran went to college and discovered framing as a potential profession. He stopped into a local gallery and asked if they needed help. “They hired me on the spot, taught me how to frame and taught me how to sell art,” he says.
 
Tran went on to open his own frame shop and gallery space in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis in a storefront across the street from the Northern Clay Center. He then moved to Montana with his wife. There he opened a successful automobile detail shop.
 
Now, back in the Twin Cities, Tran feels he’s landed in the right place to pursue his first passion: framing and selling beautiful original art. “The reason I continue is I like to see the art and I like to have a hand in making that art look even better,” Tran says.
 
 
 

CREATE: The artful meal and "food system intervention"

On September 14, 2,000 people will join artists and food activists at a half-mile long table down the center of Victoria Street in St. Paul as part of “CREATE: The Community Meal”—a public art project headed by artist Seitu Jones. Designed as a creative “food system intervention,” the project aims to lower barriers to healthy food access in some of city’s most densely populated and culturally diverse communities.
 
While a lot of work is being done in cities to address issues surrounding healthy food access, CREATE is taking a new approach. “We’re making this an artistic experience from the minute 2,000 people walk through the gate,” says Christine Podas-Larson, president of Public Art Saint Paul, which is orchestrating the project.
 
Everything will have an artistic touch, from the movements of the servers and hosts, which will be choreographed by Ananya Dance Theatre, to the blessing by poet G.E Patterson, right down to the 2,000 placemats handcrafted by paper artist Mary Hark using only bio-matter collected from the yards, alleyways and parks of the Frogtown neighborhood.
 
Spoken word artists including TouSaiko Lee, Deeq Abdi, Laureine Chang, Nimo Farah and Rodrigo Sanchez will perform original pieces with youth from Frogtown and Cedar-Riverside. Their work will investigate food traditions of the various cultures that make up the community.
 
Artists Emily Stover and Asa Hoyt are fabricating several Mobile ArtKitchens to demonstrate healthy food preparation around the city. They will be hosted by youth from the Kitty Andersen Science Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota and Youth Farm.
 
Chef James Baker, of Elite Catering Company and the Sunny Side Café—regularly voted best soul food restaurant in the Twin Cities —will prepare the meal with local ingredients grown specifically for the event by area farmers.
 
Guests will be presented with a healthy, locally sourced spread that includes 500 free-range chickens from a farm in Northfield, several vegetable dishes like collard greens and salad, an Ethiopian Bean dish from Flamingo Ethiopian Restaurant’s menu, corn bread and more.
 
Many of the growers, including those from Minneapolis-based Stones Throw Urban Farm and the Hmong American Farmers Association, are based in the Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods. The Minnesota Food Association is overseeing all the food production and sourcing.
 
“This is an opportunity for folks to meet their farmers,” Jones says. “Most of the funds are going into the pockets of farmers and artists. So this is an effort also to really pay attention to the local economy.”
 
Jones was inspired to put on this massive community meal while sitting in his storefront studio in Frogtown. He noticed an endless parade of people walking to the local convenience store and returning with bags of groceries. “Many times those bags would be filled not with fruits or vegetable, but with pre-packaged food,” he says.
 
Along with a group of local food activists, he received a grant from the USDA to do a food assessment of Districts 4, 5, 7 and 8 in St. Paul. He expected many of the obstacles the group found preventing residents from making healthy food choices, such as cost and convenience. One finding came as a surprise though.
 
“People don’t know how to make a healthy meal,” Jones says. “While we intuitively know what a healthy meal is, there are some folks that have lost the ability to prepare [one]…it wasn’t passed on.”
 
Jones began hosting small healthy community meals in residents’ homes, backyards and driveways more than a year ago, collecting “food stories” along the way. One story, told by Va-Megn Thoj, of the Asian Economic Development Association, chronicles his family’s journey across the Mekong River while fleeing oppression in Laos.
 
On arriving at a refugee camp in Thailand, he encountered a bright red fruit he had never seen before at a vendor’s stand. The vendor cut him off a chunk to try. The tart sweetness of every apple he has eaten since brings him back to that day, he says.
 
“We all have these food stories, and these stories are written in fats, carbohydrates and nutrients,” Jones says. “These stories go back for generations.”
 
Podas-Larson says Public Art St. Paul is also helping create community meal kits to help communities around the country host their own healthy meal events. Visit the CREATE website to donate, learn more, read more food stories and sign up to host your own table at the community meal.
 
“Food is so universal. Food is something that we all share, and most importantly…food defines us,” Jones says. “In many cultures, the way it’s prepared can be this act of love, and that’s what the community meal is. It is an act of love.”
 

C4ward opens doors to cultural districts along Green Line

The Green Line light-rail line opens doors to a number of emerging cultural districts along University Avenue in the Central Corridor. Throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall, C4ward: Arts and Culture Along the Green Line is inviting Twin Cities’ residents to explore six of these districts through a series of free arts-centered events occurring every other Saturday. The next event is Saturday August 9 in the Rondo and Victoria neighborhoods off the Victoria Station.

The series of events kicked off July 26 in the Little Mekong District during one of the five Southeast Asian Night Markets planned this summer. Other districts on the C4ward docket, in addition to Rondo/Frogtown, are Little Africa, Creative Enterprise Zone, Prospect Park and West Bank.

For years, University Avenue existed mainly as a thoroughfare—a place to be traveled through on the way to someplace else. The array of new cultural districts popping up is evidence that that area’s identity is already changing, says Kathy Mouacheupao, Cultural Corridor coordinator with the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which is organizing C4ward in partnership with leaders from each of the cultural districts.

“When you’re driving down University, people usually have their destination planned already—you really miss a lot of the richness, a lot of the cultural identities, the really cool things that are happening along the corridor,” she says.

Whether it’s the abundant entrepreneurs, artists and unique shopping in the Creative Enterprise Zone near the Raymond Ave. Station, or the string of African-owned businesses a short jaunt off the Snelling Ave. stop, C4ward is looking to draw new visitors to burgeoning points of cultural and artistic vibrancy that might have been previously overlooked.

“We’re trying to groove new patterns,” Mouacheupao says. “One of the nice things about the Green Line light rail is that people are starting to notice things they didn’t notice before when they were driving.”

The rich arts and creative communities that quietly thrive along the Central Corridor will be on full display at the C4ward events. From do-it-yourself letterpress printing to illuminated mask making, Mouacheupao says the artists involved are dedicated to engaging and building community. “We all live and breathe art,” she says. Art is one way in which “we communicate with each other.”

 

Made Here/Parklot activate Hennepin Avenue

Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis continues to become more pedestrian-friendly and arts-oriented. Made Here, an outdoor urban walking gallery featuring dozens of unique art installations in vacant storefronts, launched last week alongside Parklot, a colorful pop-up in the surface parking lot next to the Orpheum Theatre. Both are part of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s 10th annual Summer in the City event.

Joan Vorderbruggen, Hennepin Theatre Trust’s cultural district arts coordinator, directed Made Here. Her Made Here showcase is the largest storefront- gallery initiative in the country. The current Made Here is the third and most ambitious show. It includes more than 50 artists and arts organizations from diverse disciplines, which have created 36 unique storefront displays across 15 city blocks.

Both projects are part of the Trust’s ongoing initiative to revitalize a cultural district that includes the historic Orpheum, State, Pantages and New Century theaters, as well as other arts and cultural institutions such as First Avenue and The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.

On paper, the area seems a vibrant and walkable downtown district. But it suffers from a perceived “unevenness,” says Tom Hoch, Trust president, citing a 2010 survey and strategic planning session. Contributing to that unevenness are blocks of vacant storefronts and surface parking lots interspersed among the cultural institutions.

“No Vacancy,” a poignant Made Here installation by artist Robin Schwartzman, speaks directly to this issue. The work spans 18 windows across the second floor of the recently vacated Chevy’s building at 701 Hennepin Avenue. Blank paper covers the windows during the day while a neon sign reads “Vacancy.” Once the sun sets, the sign changes to “Sorry, No Vacancy,” and the windows come alive with animated silhouettes depicting scenes of people dancing, someone getting their hair cut, and other activities.

“When a space is vacant, it’s a void, and when it’s not, it’s vibrant,” Vorderbruggen explains, describing how “No Vacancy” relates to the overall project.

Similarly, Parklot activates an otherwise dormant space. A brightly painted checkerboard pattern covers the parking lot’s surface, extending on to the sidewalk and up the walls of adjacent buildings. Lush planters and configurable park furniture made from wooden pallets make the pop-up public gathering space tough to miss. Programming includes improv comedy from Brave New Workshop, break dancing and musical performances.

Four additional pop-up parks are planned for this year. The current Made Here installations are on display through October, and include a work from the Somali Museum of Minnesota—the only such museum in the country—that incorporates two authentic huts shipped from Djibouti, as well as other artifacts and art demonstrating traditional nomadic life.

Vorderbruggen says she intentionally ensured the Made Here art and artists reflect the diverse Twin Cities population that would encounter the work. More than 40 percent of the artists represented come from communities of color, she says.

She and Hoch also hope art installations in vacant storefronts become commonplace. “This is not a one-time thing,” Hoch says. “This is the way we hope all vacant storefronts in downtown Minneapolis are handled—that they are always programmed and that we have this connection with art, artists and space.”

“Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood,” he adds. “We’re providing opportunities for everybody to be here.”

 

Alchemy Architects adds third prefab module to school

At Cornerstone Elementary School on the Montessori Center of Minnesota's (MCM) campus on St. Paul's East Side, innovative architecture and design are creating a unique learning environment that fits a holistic curriculum serving the school’s 160 students.

A 157,000-pound hydraulic crane recently dropped a new modular classroom into place, completing a 3-year, 25 percent expansion of the public charter school that is part of the MCM program. Total cost of the expansion is $1.45 million, including landscaping and a greenhouse.

The 1,500-square-foot prefabricated classroom is the third to be installed on the property and will house one of the school’s two upper-elementary classes (grades 4-6). The other upper-elementary classroom and one lower-elementary classroom are housed in two other modular classrooms installed during previous years. The other lower-elementary classroom is housed in the main structure on campus.

Lining the property’s natural wetlands, the three modular classrooms were designed by St. Paul-based Alchemy Architects whose weeHouse design and construction system specializes in prefabricated energy-efficient structures.

The unique classrooms support MCM’s philosophy of providing the best for the smallest in developing students rich in “character, will and spirit,” according to Liza Davis, special programs coordinator at the school. The classroom structures feature large windows that bring the natural setting directly into the learning environment.

“The response of the children—when they can sit and watch the change of the seasons or ducks laying their eggs—from the windows in their classroom has been pretty remarkable, especially for the urban children,” Davis said.

A teacher training organization since 1973, MCM wanted to expand its outreach and elementary education, which led to the relocation of the center to its current site in 2008 and the addition of Cornerstone Elementary in 2011.

The school is focused on providing excellence in education and youth development to diverse communities that often face barriers to quality education. More than 60 percent of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch, according to Davis.

The use of modular classrooms has practical advantages, as well. They provide a financially savvy way to gradually expand facilities as the school grows over time.

“The charter school very quickly needed to have more space to really serve the number of children it needed to serve,” Davis said. “We needed to expand the campus and have beautiful spaces but still be financially responsible.”

Being able to expand in an affordable way that adds a valuable layer of education makes MCM’s expansion unique. The modular classrooms incorporate all facets of the curriculum in the same space with science facilities, and even a kitchen built into the structures.

“You really feel like you are in a living community space, not just a classroom that is separated into sections,” Davis says.

As with the previous installations, students and their families watched the new structure get hoisted 30 feet into the air and set in place. Davis says the design and installation process give students a sense of ownership over their learning environment.

As an example, the patios off the classrooms needed a good bit of shoveling during winter. Davis says the students were eager to pick up shovels and get to work taking care of their space.

“Seeing that something is intentional, that it’s beautiful, and that there are natural materials involved…helps communicate the same philosophy that drives our work with the children,” she adds.

 
43 diversity Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts