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Youthlink fills a void with public art

Youthlink, a nonprofit organization that provides services to homeless youth, is installing an original sculpture outside of its drop-in center in Minneapolis’s North Loop neighborhood.

The organization's Youth Opportunity Center is planning an official unveiling for the sculpture this summer, while the basic installation process will wrap up later this month, according to Francis Roen, director of development for YouthLink.

Youthlink worked with a partner at the center, the Kulture Klub Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that engages homeless youth through art, to come up with the piece. The sculpture is a creative solution to the center’s lack of “a visual marking for the space,” which is somewhat tucked away from view, she says.

Considering the fact that the center tries to help youth navigate various resources, “We were missing a key piece of that, as navigators, if we didn’t have a clear marking for this building,” she says.  

The resulting piece from local artist Randy Walker, titled “Filling the Void,” is a permanent steel frame that allows for constant change. Like many other artworks at the center, the piece was “created hand-in-hand with young people,” she says. Youth at the center and other local artists will continue to put their stamp on it through time. The frame allows for everything from video projection to living vegetation, according to center materials.  

In a prepared statement, Walker adds that the piece is symbolic in that “It provides a foundation, framework and opportunity for those who use it. It is full of potential. It is all about what you do with it.”

Ultimately, Roen hopes the piece conveys that the center is “youth-friendly and a place they can go to receive help.”  

Source: Frances Roen, director of development, Youthlink
Writer: Anna Pratt

New gift shop features locally-made goods

Doodle Bird Design + Gifts, which opened on May 10 in South Minneapolis, focuses on locally made goods.

Owner Kristin Knych, who is also a graphic designer, says she went that route because, “There’s so much talent out there, that I wanted space to showcase it.” She sells everything from soap to pottery from artists around the state. The store’s inventory also includes crafts from Knych, who describes herself as “a graphic designer by day and an avid crafter by night.”

To prepare the 550-square-foot space for the shop, she tore down a wall, installed new flooring, and gave the walls a fresh coat of paint.

The store’s look is “eclectic DIY chic,” she says, adding that most of the fixtures and furnishings came from thrift stores, garage sales, and the like. Many pieces have been repurposed. For example, one shelf is made out of old ladders.  

Behind the storefront shop is Knych’s graphic design studio. In the past, she ran her graphic design business out of her home.

She happened upon the space by chance. Having driven past it many times, Knych, who lives nearby, knew the area had plenty of foot traffic. “I think it’s a very active corner. It has a strong neighborhood feel,” she says. “I felt it needed a little bit of retail to make it more competitive” with other areas around the city.

On a broader level, “I just want to promote local artists as much as I can,” she says. Having a shop that sources local artists and crafters is “a way to make more people aware of the talent we have around here.”

Source: Kristin Knych, owner, Doodle Bird Design + Gifts
Writer: Anna Pratt

A different kind of West Side story

Shelly Campbell, a local photographer, is interested in faces, especially those in her neighborhood.

That’s what inspired her to start her ongoing project “Faces of the West Side,” in late 2010. “I realized with the West Side, I don’t need to travel. I have the world at my fingertips,” she says.   

Her color portraits of people in the neighborhood are part of a rotating exhibit at Jerabek’s New Bohemian, a coffee shop in St. Paul.

The photos reflect the neighborhood’s diversity, showing people of all ages, ethnicities, and income levels. Some are recognizable characters in the neighborhood, while others are people she might not have met otherwise.

Often, people get referred to her. At times, she’s had to find someone to act as an interpreter for non-English speakers. She’s found that “It’s a great way to get to know a lot of people on the West Side,” she says, adding, “I feel privileged. I never thought I’d get to meet or interact with so many.”  

At this point, she’s even seeing some of the same people coming back for another photo, and she tries to document how they’ve changed.

In general, she looks for “images that say something about people,” and seeks the “real person.”

At the coffee shop, she usually displays about 10 photos at once, including some that have been blown up to poster size for more impact, she says. She changes the photos on a quarterly basis, so “Folks have four months of fame,” she says, adding, “Everyone comes in and sees them and they get all excited. The kids get a real trip out of it, which is fun.” In the end, “The photos belong to everyone in the room because it’s them,” she says.

Soon, she plans to apply for grant money to expand the project. “I’d like to do some interviewing or even audio recording during photo shoots,” she says.

Source: Shelly Campbell, photographer
Writer: Anna Pratt

Midtown Greenway group marks dimly-lit areas along bike path

The Midtown Greenway, a 5.5-mile biking and walking trail in South Minneapolis, is too dark in some places.

This was a key concern raised by the Midtown Greenway Coalition’s crime-prevention task force, which recently studied the Greenway’s safety, according to Soren Jensen, who leads the organization.  Jensen says the coalition’s Trail Watch, a volunteer group of bicyclists who patrol the Greenway nightly, tries to keep an eye on things.  

But the group has been working to go beyond that to ensure safety along the path. “We wanted to see if we could come up with more ways to keep crime low in the Greenway,” he says. That’s what led the organization to form the crime-prevention task force a number of months ago.

To evaluate conditions along the Greenway, the task force members, armed with light meters, went out one night “measuring the amount of light in the corridor,” he says.  

In the end, they found too many shady spots, going by national trail standards, he says. Of particular concern are “very dark stairs and ramps,” at some points along the trail.

Although the Greenway has a low crime rate, "When there have been late-night muggings, they have tended to be near the dark stairways.”

To get a better handle on the situation, the task force produced a Google map; it’s an internal document that pinpoints the worst places along the Greenway, in order of priority, he says. Soon, the coalition hopes to see more lighting installed and signage that lets people know they’re under surveillance on the Greenway.

“We have prioritized about 15 sites so far, mostly between Interstate 35W and Hiawatha Avenue, and will continue to roll out our rankings of dark spots as the city moves to fix them,” he says.

Source: Soren Jensen, executive director, Midtown Greenway Coalition
Writer: Anna Pratt

ReUse Minnesota group forms to advocate for recycling

ReUse Minnesota, a new nonprofit trade association, promotes reuse as a more efficient alternative to recycling. The group hopes to keep items that are still useful in circulation, and not in landfills, according to ReUse information.

Anna Arkin, the organization’s coordinator, says the membership-based group is for “any sort of business that expands the life of a product through reuse or repair,” or an individual or nonprofit agency working in this capacity.  

While most people recycle, reuse is “preferred environmentally,” she says. Reuse can shrink one’s ecological footprint by cutting down on “new purchases which require virgin raw materials and energy,” a prepared statement reads.

Thrift stores, secondhand bookstores, electronics repair and consignment, and architectural salvage shops are just a few examples of businesses working in this area, Arkin says.

However, there’s a lack of consumer awareness on this front, she adds.

Although the association has already begun recruiting members, the group is hosting an official launch event on June 26 at the Summit Brewery in St. Paul.

The group is an outgrowth of the local chapter of the national Reuse Alliance. In 2012, members decided to create a separate organization “to focus on promoting and facilitating reuse at the state level, rather than the national, level,” a prepared statement reads.   

Already, the organization has pulled together a variety of local businesses, government organizations, and individuals dealing in the reuse, rental, or repair sector. ReUse Minnesota is also working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to document the impact of reuse. “The goal is to make reuse happen, so we create a stronger reuse community,” Arkin says.

Source: Anna Arkin, coordinator, ReUse Minnesota
Writer: Anna Pratt

St. Paul parks enter into development plan with Frogtown Gardens and Farms

In April, the St. Paul City Council gave the go-ahead to the parks department to enter into a development agreement with Frogtown Gardens.

The agreement lays out the next steps to make the five-acre urban agriculture demonstration site a reality. Frogtown Gardens “will encourage residents to start their own backyard gardens and will promote healthier eating habits,” a prepared statement reads.

The land for the garden once belonged to the Wilder Foundation, which has since moved its offices. St. Paul is working with the Trust for Public Land to acquire the property this year, according to St. Paul information. In the meantime, the trust is trying to raise the $3.45 million needed to buy the land and to jumpstart development and programming.

Mike Hahm, who leads the parks department, says the development agreement with Frogtown Gardens helps flesh out those details. “It’s the next important step to bring this thing to life,” he says. Frogtown Gardens speaks directly to a need for parkland in the neighborhood, a need that the parks department identified a while ago.

As a part of the project, more than half of the property will become public parkland. “We’re super excited about the project. It hits on so many priority issues for Frogtown and St. Paul as a community,” Hahm says. It goes without saying, he adds, that parkland “is important for the community for so many reasons.” Parkland contributes to sustainability and livability, both of which are big goals for the city, he says.

Another part of the acreage will be used for growing fruits and vegetables. “The city is facilitating the partnership between the Frogtown Gardens group and the public, which will own the land,” he says.

Frogtown Gardens is an example of a community-driven effort. “It was the community that raised its hand repeatedly and said it had a vision for this property as a park and an urban agricultural center,” Hahm says, adding, “It caught the attention of various officials and captured the imagination of others in the community.”

Source: Mike Hahm, director, St. Paul Parks
Writer: Anna Pratt

Megabus comes to St. Paul

Last week, Megabus, which offers low-cost intercity travel by bus, rolled out a St. Paul bus stop.  

The stop, which can be found in the Midway Shopping Center’s parking lot, is only blocks away from the coming Central Corridor light rail transit station on Snelling Avenue.

Mike Alvich, the vice president of marketing and public relations for Megabus and Coach USA, says St. Paul is a natural connection for the bus service. “We always felt that St. Paul was a place where we should have service,” though the company began conservatively, he says.

Megabus, which began in Britain and expanded into the U.S. in 2006, also has a downtown Minneapolis bus stop, near the Metrodome and a Hiawatha light rail transit station.

Megabus operates in 100 U.S. cities out of a dozen hubs nationwide, with Chicago being its first. “It’s been very exciting,” Alvich says, adding that the company just reached a milestone of 25 million customers.

In general, Megabus attracts an interesting mix of people, including small groups taking day trips, businesspeople and seniors, with students and young professionals accounting for the largest group of riders. “St. Paul fits the mold for us,” he says, adding, “The community fits the demographic.”  Additionally, Greyhound buses have discontinued service in St. Paul, he says.

While the Megabus service helps connect the city to other areas across the Midwest, “For those traveling into the city, it adds to the city’s economy,” he says. Part of the draw of Megabus is that fares can be as low as $1, while the buses are “state-of-the-art double-decker buses with wifi outlets and electrical outlets.".

Something he’s found from the company’s social networking activity is that “we provide more than just transportation. We provide the ability for people to do the things they love."

Source: Mike Alvich, vice president of marketing and public relations for Megabus and Coach USA
Writer: Anna Pratt

SooLocal goes from pop-up shop to permanent gallery

Last year, the Soo Visual Arts Center opened a temporary pop-up shop in a vacant storefront space in Minneapolis’s Lyndale neighborhood, as a sort of experiment.

The place, which it calls Soo Local, has turned out to be so successful that the gallery has decided to stick with it in the long term, according to Carolyn Payne, who heads the gallery.

Kim Bartmann, who owns the nearby Pat's Tap and other local restaurants, rents the space to the gallery, Payne says.

When it became available, Soo Visual Arts jumped at it. Despite a strong arts community in the area, “There aren’t a lot of visual art spaces that highlight locals,” she says.

Already, Soo Local has helped the gallery to broaden its reach, and work with a larger, more diverse pool of artists. The place has featured 200 artists since November of 2012. “It’s amazing, that’s sometimes what we show in one year at Soo Visual Arts,” says Payne.

She characterizes the place as a “more spontaneous, experimental space. We can do things quicker that don’t fit into the exhibition schedule.”

The second location gives the gallery the chance to partner with other local groups, something it often didn’t have the space or time to do in the past. SooLocal is “a way for us to do even more programming within the community.”

It’s also a venue for exploring new ideas from artists, often those who don’t have gallery experience, she says. In those cases, SooLocal is able to help people with everything from installing a professional-level show to writing press releases.
She’s been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm for SooLocal. In April, the place was so full for a  performance by artist Jaime Carrera that she had to turn people away from the doors, she says.  

“Tons of people walk in. It has a neighborhood vibe, with lots of families, artists, and non-artists coming in,” she says. “It’s been really fun and we’ve met a lot of people.”
Now, she’s hoping that SooLocal can secure more funding for regular hours, upgrades to the space, and an internship program.

Source: Carolyn Payne, SooLocal
Writer: Anna Pratt

Anti-wrecking ball event celebrates local preservation projects

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota (PAM) is hosting its fourth annual (Anti)Wrecking Ball event on May 17 at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis.

The preservation-themed carnival is being held in conjunction with the start of Art-a-Whirl, the annual Northeast public art crawl, according to Erin Hanafin Berg, a spokesperson for the organization. “The free event will be a celebration of all things preservation in Minnesota,” PAM materials state.

This is the second time that the event has been connected to Art-a-Whirl, which was helpful in spreading the word last year, Berg says. Nearly 300 people attended the event last year, she adds.

On top of that, “We love the Soap Factory because it itself is a historic building, a preservation work in progress,” she says.

The annual party started out as a fun way for PAM to release its 10 Most Endangered list. But after a couple of years, the organization decided to go in a different direction. “Last year it turned into just an all-out party with some preservation-themed things for people to look at and engage with. We had such a good time last year that we’re sticking with that theme,” she says.  

Although the event is more about "friend-raising than fundraising," as Berg put it, it has a $10 suggested donation. “We’ll have a few ways for people to part with their money in support of our organization,” she says. Besides providing live music, food and drink, and a number of games, the nonprofit organization will announce its first Site Worth Saving, a program it’s starting to promote preservation, she says.
Source: Erin Hanafin Berg
Writer: Anna Pratt

The Hub opens fourth location at Spokes in Seward neighborhood

The Hub bike cooperative opened its fourth location on April 26, alongside Spokes, an organization that offers an open bike shop and community classes.

Spokes opened in Minneapolis's Seward neighborhood last fall. The two bike businesses are in a building that previously housed an Islamic cultural center and a machine shop, according to Sheldon Mains, who works with Spokes.

“Having both facilities together helps bring together everything someone needs to start biking,” he says.

This collaboration came together thanks to the work of a handful of partners, including Cycles for Change, The Hub, Seward Neighborhood Group and Seward ReDesign, which all worked together to make the place a reality.

At this location, The Hub is selling used bikes, bike parts and accessories, he says.

However, The Hub won’t be repairing bikes. That’s because Spokes helps people to do that themselves, Mains explains. “What we do is shoulder-to-shoulder training,” he says. “Mechanics help and walk people through the process, even if they’ve never done it before.”

Between the open workshop and the retail side, “It’s a great symbiotic relationship,” he says.

This summer, the place hopes to offer a kind of lending library, where people can “check out” a bike for a defined period. That might appeal to people who aren’t ready to buy a bike yet, he says.

The idea is to get more people biking and walking, especially the local immigrant community. Spokes has already hosted a number of successful biking classes, including one that focused on navigating busy streets. “We’re using any ideas that we can come up with to get people more active,” and to use biking as a mode of transportation and for exercise and recreational purposes, he says.

Source: Sheldon Mains, Spokes
Writer: Anna Pratt

Students design stormwater drain stencils throughout St. Paul as a part of CityLabs project

Through a partnership with a group called CityLabs, which works with a nonprofit consortium called the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities (ACTC) on various sustainability projects, a number of student designers will soon be making their mark on St. Paul streets.

The students, who come from Hamline University and Augsburg College, came up with a stencil design for stormwater drains throughout the city.

On Thursday, that design, and other pieces the students put together as a part of a larger campaign to create awareness around stormwater drains, will be unveiled in a special event at Hamline.

Jason Maher, a spokesperson from CityLabs, explains that the city is required to do a certain amount of education and outreach concerning stormwater drains. That’s where CityLabs and ACTC are able to have an impact: For the stencils, the city “proposed that to us in project form and then we match that with existing coursework,” he says.  

The idea is that the stenciled designs calls attention to the stormwater drains, which often end up conveying much more than runoff, he says.

Typically, the city works with the Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) on these types of initiatives, and FMR will be coordinating the stenciling part of this project in the coming weeks. At Thursday’s event, people can sign up to help out with that, he says.   

The reason that this project came up has to with the fact that the current designs on the city’s stormwater drains are 20 years old, so the city “wanted a redesign of that campaign.”

Also as a part of this campaign, students designed eye-catching handles to flip over storm doors and coasters for area bars to use.

As the project progressed, the dynamic between the classes and the city was much like that of a graphic design firm and client, “with lots of feedback and give and take,” he says, adding, “Someone from the city works with the students to make sure the outcomes are there and they guide the work.”

Students started out with around seven design concepts, which they narrowed down to three and then one winning design. Along the way, the students came up with lots of “ideas that are super fresh and innovative,” he says.

Source: Jason Maher, spokesperson, CityLabs
Writer: Anna Pratt

Art Materials gets a new look for its Uptown store and adds a location

Art Materials, which has had a longstanding presence in Minneapolis’s Uptown neighborhood, recently underwent a remodel and added a Northeast location.

Both projects unfolded simultaneously, according to Larry Brown, who co-owns the business with his wife, Joanne. In fact, many of the finishing touches on the remodel of its Lyndale store were still being made this week.

At one point, the store had considered relocating from Lyndale, but after putting the project on hold for a year, “We discovered in that year that Uptown had turned into a veritable beehive of building activity,” with lots of new apartments, restaurants and more. “It was a highly desirable place to be.”

So, after deciding to stay put, “We felt the building needed to be rehabbed,” he says.

The renovation process opened up the space in the vintage building, which had once served as a creamery with an attached garage. Higher ceilings and concrete floors came to light, while lighting fixtures were upgraded, which is important in a store that sells paint colors, he says, adding, “It has a softer and more pleasing look.”

A colorful mural reflecting various aspects of the city, something the store didn’t have room for before, brings a nice contrast to the gray walls, he says.

Later on, the store hopes to give the exterior a facelift, too, he says.

The art-supply store had long wanted to open a Northeast location, to serve the city’s Arts District. “There’s been a void in the area for the things we do and we see it as something to capitalize on,” he says.

Art Materials was able to settle into an industrial space in Northeast, which has a funkier look.

Both stores are destination places, as is a third location in Fargo, North Dakota.

“We have succeeded in changing the face of our business in Minneapolis to be something different and better than what it was,” Brown says.

Source: Larry Brown, co-owner, Art Materials
Writer: Anna Pratt

Potter's Pasties emulates Tube station eatery

Potter’s Pasties, which started out with a food trailer and then a food truck, recently opened a storefront space at 1828 Como Ave. S.E. in Minneapolis.

The basement-level place, which specializes in an English-style pastry, is reminiscent of a food stop on the Tube, London’s underground train system.  

In the past, the space had been used as a delivery and take-out location for Broadway pizza, according to Potter’s owner Alec Duncan.

Potter’s doesn’t have street access, but bright signage helps show people the way, he says. Duncan sought out a brick-and-mortar location after demand for the pasties “shot through the roof. People wanted to take and bake the pasties and we were selling out all the time,” he says.

Although seating is limited in the space—it’s geared more for take-out—the location works well, especially with the number of students in the area who are always on the go, he says.

The place is decorated with pictures of England and other related paraphernalia that’s personal to Duncan and his wife and relates to their travels. Everything is British-themed, with a lot of red, white, and blue and a giant chalkboard, he adds. Additionally, his mother, a local artist, is working on a canvas to go in the space, and an exterior mural will soon be redone.

Duncan hopes the place helps to revive the small business scene in the area and can be “part of every part of the community,” he says.

Source: Alec Duncan, owner, Potter’s Pasties
Writer: Anna Pratt

Collective Spaces a joint workspace for local costume designers

Collective Spaces, a shared workspace for costume designers, is in the works at the Triangle Building in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood.

Amy Sparks, who leads the St. Anthony Park Community Council, says the new business dovetails nicely with the work of the neighborhood group and the Creative Enterprise Zone. Collective Spaces is the brainchild of local costume designer Amy Kaufman, who says in a Park Bugle story that designers lack space to do their creative work.

A place like Collective Spaces enables people from small theaters to share resources, too. Additionally, within the same building, similar collaborative projects centering on photography and printing are happening, according to Sparks. “The landlord seems to be supportive of these artist/artisan light industrial uses, which is encouraging to us,” she says.   

Looking at the tight deadlines that costume designers often deal with, “It helps to have a network of collaborators,” Sparks says.  

Last month, Kaufman and the building’s other tenants jointly hosted a happy hour to try to bring people together around that mission. “It was a great connecting event, which is exactly what we want to see happen,” Sparks says. “The more networked someone is, the better chance they have of creating a thriving business in the neighborhood.”

This demonstrates that Kaufman, who’s been involved in other neighborhood events, understands the need to build community to be successful. “She’s interested in being part of a larger conversation and a bigger working group," says Sparks. As someone who sees “the value of connecting the dots here in the neighborhood, it’s exciting for me to see.”

Source: Amy Sparks, St. Anthony Park Community Council
Writer: Anna Pratt

Tangiers restaurant plans to open in North Loop

The Tangiers, an upscale eatery coming to Minneapolis’s North Loop neighborhood, is going for a look “reminiscent of entering a great room in an elegant vintage mansion,” its website reads.  

To set the scene, the 152-seat restaurant, which is going into 116 1st Ave. N., will have richly colored plush sofas and chairs and the “warm and inviting light” of chandeliers. “It is a venue in which the mature and sophisticated crowd can settle into an environment that speaks to them,” the website goes on to say. As in the nearby Marvel Bar, the restaurant’s lounge will feature fanciful custom drinks, along with artisan cuisine.

In a story from The Journal, Tangiers owner Behnad Taheri says that the restaurant’s name relates to a fictional hotel in the movie, “Casino.”

David Frank, who leads the North Loop neighborhood group, says that many community members are supportive of the restaurant’s plans. To begin with, “The owner of Tangiers came to our Planning & Zoning committee several times, and the board wrote a letter of support for the liquor license,” he says.

“We like seeing active uses where those have not been before,” Frank says, adding that the space has been vacant for some time. In general, the neighborhood group is “glad to see more restaurant uses to complement our growing residential population,” he says. This is a win-win on a couple of different levels: “It's great to see restaurants filling in the neighborhood, and we like that more people will be coming to the North Loop to eat there.”

Source: David Frank, North Loop neighborhood group
Writer: Anna Pratt
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