Forecast is partnering with Bolton + Menk, 4RM+ULA, and Ramsey County to define a community-driven vision for Rice Street in Saint Paul, Minnesota between Pennsylvania and Wheelock Parkway. Since fall 2019, the teams have been dedicated to community engagement and visioning along Rice Street. Forecast consultant Hawona Sullivan Janzen (seated at left, above) led the effort to hire four community artist liaisons—Krista Beier, Melvin Giles, Kazua Melissa Vang, Kyle Voigtlander (who moved in 2022), and most recently, Johanna Keller Flores in 2023—who continue to develop engagement projects along the Rice Street corridor. They have been facilitating activities that focus on creating relationships of mutual investment among community stakeholders. Through these projects, the artists help answer questions about who is using Rice Street, how they are using it, and what would make it a better place for everyone.
Read more about the artists and their work below. We are thrilled with the success of this award-winning, artist-lead engagement. These projects and inclusive practices invite and honor the full expression of people and place, and will lead to the redevelopment of Rice Street. The Rice Street Visioning Project intends to promote economic growth and community investment while maintaining and providing business opportunities; create an inviting environment; enhancing pedestrian and bicyclist safety; maintaining and augmenting transit service; and continuing to increase vehicle safety. In addition to the extensive artist liaison activities, Forecast consulting team members Witt Siasoco, Hawona Sullivan Janzen, Bob Lunning, and Jen Krava held meetings with businesses along Rice Street and created activities for an in-person open house in Fall 2019.
Community Artist Liaisons
Alphabetical by first name
Johanna Keller FloresForecast Public Art
Read Johanna’s bio
Johanna Keller Flores is a Peruana American theatre artist who’s out here trying to tell stories close to her heart for her queer and trans Black and brown familia. She was born on the Dakota Land of St. Paul, Minnesota with roots in Chimbote, Peru. She has written the short plays ANGELITA, Marixa y La Depre, ceviche con cancha, Mal Ojo, and other pieces. Johanna’s writing exists in the spaces where queerness, mixed Peruana identity, magic, and spirits come together across time. She has had the sincerest pleasure of creating in her Twin Cities home in recent years; assistant stage managing, writing, directing, and performing with Pangea World Theatre, Twin Cities Media Alliance, Teatro del Pueblo, Full Circle Theatre, Lightning Rod at Pillsbury House Theatre, 20% Theatre, Gadfly Theatre, BareBones Productions, Exposed Brick Theatre, Threshold Theater and Alliance for Latinx Minnesota Artists.
She is a 2022-23 Many Voices Mentee with the Playwright’s Center. Johanna has had the sincerest pleasure of creating in her Twin Cities home in recent years; assistant stage managing, writing, directing, and performing with Pangea World Theatre, Twin Cities Media Alliance, Teatro del Pueblo, Full Circle Theatre, Lightning Rod, 20% Theatre, Gadfly Theatre, BareBones Productions, Exposed Brick Theatre, and Threshold Theater.
Kazua Melissa Vang
Read Kazua’s bio
Kazua Melissa Vang is a Hmong-American multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker, photographer, and cultural producer based in Minnesota. Vang has exhibited her photography at In Progress, Second Shift Studio Space, Indigenous Roots, Quarter Gallery at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery, The Gordon Parks Gallery at Metro State University, and Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her current photography work, PRESERVES, focuses on the grief and loss of her father and her reflection as a caregiver for over 21 years.Vang co-founded the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) Minnesota Film Collective to create, promote, and empower underrepresented MN filmmakers. Vang has worked as a production manager for an independent pilot titled NICE, an independent pilot, an official selection under Indie Episodic Category at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Her first short film, RHAUB, was an official selection at the 2018 Qhia Dab Neeg Film Festival in Saint Paul, MN.
Vang has received the Forecast Public Art Early-Career Project grant and developed a short experimental film, HMONG EPHEMERA. She is a producer for the comedic web series HMONG ORGANIZATION and has recently produced THE WIND ALWAYS STRIKES THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN, a Yeej Moua film that was featured at the Northern Sparks Festival 2021. Vang has also won multiple grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, Saint Paul Foundation, and more.
Currently, she is developing her feature film and a documentary and portrait series, HMOOB DUBBERS. She is in pre-production for the documentary, a working title, HMONG FUNERALS. Vang was a Forecast 2019 Early Career Project Grantee for her experimental short films project, Hmong Ephemera.
Read Krista’s bio
Krista Beier is a creative who uses art as a voice for social change and a means of self-exploration through altering space. Librarian by day, artist by night, her work focuses on her relationship both with the community and the earth. She is inspired by her cultural heritage and draws deeply upon the imagery of her ancestors. She dabbles in a variety of mediums, including mandalas, sculpture (especially with unusual materials!), puppetry, textiles and more. She considers herself a public artist, and loves creating interactive pieces to connect with others. She has created work for the Art Shanty Projects and Made Here MN, and has been a Minnesota State Arts Board grant recipient. Krista lives in the North End, a few blocks off Rice Street, with her husband, her dog, cats and ducks. She’s an avid gardener, reader and explorer!
Melvin GilesForecast Public Art
Read Melvin’s bio
Melvin Giles is a Community and Global Peacemaker and a Bubbling Artist. He incorporates Peace Bubbles, Peace Messages and the International Peace Pole to create places/spaces of peace. He is known for his signature style of blowing and sharing peace bubbles. He is a veteran peace, diversity, and dismantling racism educator. He started using bubbles to bridge a gap and distrust between the Black community and the Saint Paul Police Department in the late 1990s by offering police officers bubbles for their domestic calls to give kids when investigating domestic violence in residential settings, in order for the children to have a healthier perception of police officers in general. He has extensive experience working with youth, academia, government agencies, nonprofit agencies and neighborhood groups. Notable accomplishments include serving as an adjunct community faculty instructor in Bethel University’s Anthropology Department, a member of AfroEco and the Growing Food and Justice All Initiative, advisor to the Diversity Committee of Ramsey County Master Gardeners, certified facilitator of Racial Sobriety workshops, anti-racism trainer for the Minnesota Tri-Council Commision of the Council of Churches, and founding member and key organizer of the St. Paul Pluralism Circle.
Giles recently worked with two other artists on an exterior face-lift of the Rondo Library and received a 2020 Forecast Messages of Hope Mini-Grant to promote hope in his community during Minnesota’s COVID-19 sheltering-in-place.
What do the artist liaisons do?
These artists do deep community engagement work for the Rice Street Visioning Study, a Ramsey County funded initiative for the redevelopment of the Rice Street corridor between Pennsylvania Avenue and Wheelock Parkway. Their roles are temporary part-time independent contractor positions. Together, they:
- Work within a four-person Artist Engagement Team, with Forecast and other organizations hired by Ramsey County to host pop-up events and participate in open houses. Together the team builds relationships with neighborhood residents, local businesses and organizations who care about the future of Rice Street to ensure awareness of the construction work and provide opportunities for feedback and Q & A’s.
- Develop and use arts-based tools to find out more about neighborhood residents’ opinions, hopes, and dreams for Rice Street.
- Make recommendations to team and county regarding community supported changes to be made.
The teams at Forecast Public Art, Bolton & Menk, Inc., 4RM+ULA and Ramsey County won the 2021 Excellence in Community Engagement Award from the Minnesota Chapter of the American Planning Association.
“I could not be prouder of our team, the artist liaisons, and our partners for their ability to forge ahead, adapt, innovate and find inspiring ways to uplift community voices during both a pandemic and local uprisings calling for racial justice. Because of their creativity, this redesign moves forward in a more equitable and inclusive way and will benefit generations to come.”
Community feedback continues through mid-August, 2023. Anyone who works or lives in the neighborhood is invited to provide feedback to the artist liaisons and Ramsey County.
Watch for more details to come and sign up for updates.