Artist Emily Johnson and her company Catalyst are using Richfield’s nature preserves as a setting for community meals, storytelling, and dance to engage elders and families as part of the RARE: Richfield Artist Resident Engagement project.
Recently, Julia Bither, who works with Emily Johnson, collected ideas from Richfield residents about their desires for Richfield on quilt squares. These are her notes from the Richfield Farmers Market:
Joseph asks me my name. He tells me where he grew up, in rural Wisconsin, they could always see the stars, every constellation. It became part of his school’s curriculum to identify them.
Alex and his dad like the quilt square that says “Restaurant that allows dogs.” They tell me their plan for when they get rich. A dog complex, featuring a dog hotel, a dog hospital, and a restaurant, serving both human and dog food.
Kayleen just moved to Richfield. She is wearing her baby on her chest and wants a baby wearing club. Just moms doing things together, wearing their babies.
Two Richfield police officers walk by slowly. I explain what we are doing, gathering ideas. They linger. One of them looks at the quilt squares. “Tai chi,” he nods, “Tai chi.”
When I tell John we are going to shut off lights and look at stars he says, “Good luck.” He tells me about driving out to rural areas of Minnesota to see the stars. He tells me the story of one night, with he and Maggie and their three kids, driving out to Buffalo for an amazing meteor shower. There were hundreds of meteors. They pulled off on the side of the road to watch. When the highway patrol came up to hassle them John told him to “look up.”
Joseph returns with his partner, Everet. Everet draws two quilt squares, one for “spirit” and one for “love.” He tells me his mother was a quilter. He tells me he could stay here all day and draw, he is an artist.
Robyn walks by and she nods, “nothing better than a little intentionality.”
Ken tells me about the quilts his wife used to make, when their youngest daughter was in the marines. Mothers of marines made the quilts collectively, sending quilt squares and materials in packages across the country, and once completed, sent the quilts to mothers of marines who had been killed.
People who I met here last week come back to check in with me, check on their quilt squares. The Mayor of Richfield wants free mental health clinics. She says she is glad we are here.
It gets quiet, then full. Momentum gathers and carries and dissipates. One quilt square asks to “Wait for Something In Public.”
Roland draws on a square, he won’t describe what he’s drawn but he tells me the name of all the vegetables he knows. He introduces me to his little sibling Ollie, as his dad makes a quilt square about dog parks.
Two young friends want a balloon party, a swimming party.
Berenice, who I met last week, returns with three younger sisters in tow. They write as many quilt squares as they can, about animals and forests and ask me how to spell “extinct.” They stay till the very last moment of the market, they share lots of ideas about how we are going to sew this quilt together. They help me pack up all the clothespins and markers and stack all the quilt squares on top of one another to be tied up with twine.