Phase I (January-May) with the Richfield Artist Resident Engagement (RARE) project this year brought me and partner E.G. Bailey into some welcoming, questioning, and pretty amazing spaces where were were able to talk about and share art. We had a particularly  transformative experience with the Flex Academy students (youth) for several visits where we workshopped around the power of the literary art forms of poetry and spoken word and most recently hip hop.

We are guest artists on the RARE Arts initiative in collaboration with the Cornerstone Group and Forecast Public Art. Using creative and non traditional ways to speak to people and engage them is not new for us but the richness of Richfield’s cultural landscape and the pride that the residents have is inspiring.

These kids are simply brilliant and so eager to jump in and go for it. They contributed to the documentary-style community poem we have been working on since early spring. The community poem is an engagement activity through which we’ve invited the Richfield community to participate by contributing as little as a one line response to the prompt ‘I Am From.’ Some take a moment to add a word or phrase and others leave a whole narrative. These words are being integrated into the community mural created by Greta McLain and her team.

I am from sunny streets and a frozen city.  From tamales and molé and laughter mixed with joy. -community member

We had the pleasure to invite guest artists J. Otis Powell and Tom Kathnak to the Artful Nook studios up on 63rd and Lyndale for a music jam session with elders from Crosstown Creatives (elders). It was a meditative and reflective time filled with sketching, coloring, food, and conversation around the importance of artistic expression as a healing tool. (Families) have had several chance to participate in poetry making cards at the library’s fiesta of arts day as well as farmer markets. It brings a smile to our faces to see a teen help encourage her parent finish a phrase about who she is. It reminds us of the importance to have artistic outlets like this (art) that provide an opportunity for people to literally stop…and think.

It has been empowering to be supported by Forecast who is helping facilitate the project as well as the Cornerstone Group who is the community based developer aiming to create a housing complex with a community space and artistic residency space embedded.

We look forward to phase II that begins to harvest the pieces and tell a collective story of who Richfield is through Art!  Yes to the four great ingredients – youth, elders, families and art – that make up this tasty collaboration.

Sha Cage writes about visiting Augsburg Library with E.G. Bailey

“Yo soy”…a phrase that asserts our very existence to the rest of the world. When I entered the room for a Dia de los Ninos workshop on poetry, identity, and community, there was so much energy bouncing around that room at the library. There was so much personality, so many identities, and so much in that sample size of community in the room, it felt like everyone was already performing a massive collaborative poem, in unison.

Seeing young people of varying ages, thinking through what it means to be who they are and how they learn-from and contribute-to their communities was a beautiful experience. I heard stories in English, in Spanish, and in food, in laughter, music, and culture. The stories in these poems came from guidance and collaboration between generations. There was teaching and sharing in a form of expression that was new to many of the participants, and I was so happy to see many of them share their work out loud. I look forward to seeing how their work contributes to a larger community poem!

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.