Summer forecast: New connections and fresh perspectives

May 30, 2017 by Tom Evers

In summer, the Minneapolis park system provides ample activities for youth, including sports leagues, summer camps, and places to gather and meet friends.

For teens, parks also provide rewarding job opportunities as life guards, camp staff and “Green Team” landscape crews. The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is adding to that mix of opportunities – through experience in placemaking, design and community engagement. For the second year in a row, we hired Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA) apprentices to help explore connections between the future parks and trails of RiverFirst with the adjacent neighborhoods in North Minneapolis.

This partnership taps into the creative force of Minneapolis youth and engages them through art and design. Founded by two Minneapolitans, Roger and Deanna Cummings, JXTA is a nationally recognized non-profit that generates opportunities for youth to be at the table early in the design process and uses projects to apply their highly sought-after design skills. Our partnership with them brings their voice to RiverFirst and will result in a more meaningful design.

This partnership was launched last year with an initial grant from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund. The apprentices spent last summer exploring the Mississippi River by kayak and surrounding parkland and neighborhood by bike, offering design explorations of how these spaces might be re-created for relevance in their life. As a result of their early work, JXTA was invited to join the development team chosen to redevelop the Upper Harbor Terminal. (Check out the videos.)

We are building on our 2016 partnership this summer. We hope to expand the apprentices’ work by inviting other youth-oriented organizations to discover a new perspective of our city from a bike, kayak and walking the land, then returning to the studio to contribute their observations for future parks.

Our JXTA youth bike tours will be in partnership with a group leading weekly bike rides through North Minneapolis, building community and discussing design, health and public spaces. Known as a “Slow Roll,” these open community bike rides engage people at all skill levels. If you’re interested in joining us on a Thursday night ride, please let us know – the invitation is open and we can help equip those who want to join but don’t have a bike. (Look for event announcements on our blog, and keep up with our activity by connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.)

We’re hopeful that this exploration will forge new connections that help strengthen the bonds our youth have with Minneapolis and see their own future enriched through our parks. We all have a stake in how our parks develop and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation is committed to finding innovative ways to bring a fresh perspective to our work. We look forward to presenting what we learn from this work throughout the summer and fall.

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