On September 21 Shá Cage and E.G. Bailey hosted a beat-heavy, creation-inducing evening of local art, music, poetry and dance for the final event of their Richfield Artist Residency (RARE) funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board. This art-infused party in north central Richfield topped off Shá and E.G.’s RARE collaboration with Forecast Public Art and the Cornerstone Group to activate Richfield creatives around a new real estate development and hopefully change the way new buildings go up.
The original plan was to hold all activities outside—in the grass at The Cornerstone Group’s community pop-up park, in the colorfully painted parking lot next to the Artful Nook, and on the torn-up site of the soon-to-be-finished shoreline improvements beside Richfield Lake. The object of RARE all along has been to activate this area within the community, make Richfield aware of the development happening here and to get people involved in creative ways. The weather, alas did not allow for this grand, outdoor vision to be realized. Due to the rain Sha and E.G. instead converted Cornerstone’s office building into a thrumming hive of artists and art. Fortunately, the closeness of quarters and general intimacy of the space turned out to be a welcome setting for the evening’s activities.
The party moved and flowed from room to room in this decrepit building with World Music by DJ Chamun connecting people to one another through its thin walls. Guests packed into the Artful Nook for the hypnotizing Hip Hop dance creations of Rha Fya, Robert King, Cecil Neal, and David Stalter. Poetry followed with a reading from local legend J. Otis Powell and students from the local charter school Flex Academy.
Nextdoor, down the hall, in the Cornerstone offices guests enjoyed a gallery of work by local artists Bob Smith and Ron Wilson. They had the opportunity to contribute to a community poem, visit a pop-up library run by Cecilia Hsu and paint birdhouses with Keri O’Keefe and Michael Nguyen. In this room, Phuoc Tran, a children’s storybook writer and Hennepin County Librarian, told stories from the Vietnamese folktale tradition, and the songstress Mayda tore at our heart strings with a beautiful series of songs with guitar.
People wandered from one room to the other all night, stopping along the way to spend time in the tent-covered fresh air of the building courtyard. (Note: it is believed this building was built in the early 20th century as a garden center—hence the large courtyard in the middle. No records can be found of the original owner. Long abandoned, the courtyard has in recent years been reclaimed by five to seven-foot trees growing up through cracks in the concrete.)
In both indoor spaces people encountered sections of the newly completed (but yet-to-be-installed) mural by Greta McClain—with help from over one hundred community members—spread throughout the space reading in giant flecks of colored tile “Family,” “Mysterious,” and “Rice and Beans,” among other phrases.
This is an old building. It will be torn down within the next year. But until that time The Cornerstone Group uses part of it for an office and shares the space with the Artful Nook next door. For the past two years a Richfield group of artists called the Crosstown Collective has used this space three times a week for open studio and art making (Still happening! M-W-F) This past Summer the Collective shared the Artful Nook with our RARE artists, Greta McClain, Shá Cage and E.G. Bailey. So for many reasons it was not the worst place to have our final blow-out celebration of local art and community development.
Puppeteer Gustavo Boada was the only performer who spent most of the evening outside in the drizzle, floating his life-like white owl puppet among the cars in the parking lot and down the boulevard along Lyndale Avenue. Neighbors and friends who had worked with Sha and E.G. throughout their residency filled these small spaces from 4pm until a little after sundown. Guests stayed on after the final poetry reading to help take down streamers and clean salsa from the wainscoting. Community events don’t get much better than this.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.