For many Minneapolis youth from Project Sweetie Pie, Asian Media Access, and Urban Strategies we connected with last summer, kayaking with Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA) and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation was the first time they’d made contact with the mighty Mississippi.
The Parks Foundation and our partner the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board are working to make it easier for people to access the Mississippi River and all it has to offer through the RiverFirst Initiative. In bringing to life new parks and trails along the Upper Riverfront, we hope to create opportunities for more community members to connect with each other and the natural world. Through our partnership with JXTA, we’re also inviting young people into this active planning process and, along the way, encouraging them to imagine a future as designers, community-builders, and adventurers.
In this two-part series, we’re excerpting four Q&As from a JXTA apprentice-produced “zine” about their summer 2017 experiences. We hope you enjoy hearing their stories – and be sure to check out the zine for more of the apprentices’ design ideas and engagement activities. You can also learn more about our summer partnership by watching JXTA’s opening presentation for our October 2017 Next Generation of Parks event.
Maryan Aden, age 17
What did you do before Step-Up?
Maryan Aden: I spent all my time going to school, hanging out at home, and babysitting. When I first started working in the Enviro Design Studio, I became more aware of the community especially 26th Ave River Link and the Upper Harbor Terminal site.
How did it feel to ride a bike for the first time?
MA: We were going on a Slow Roll and I didn’t know how to ride a bike, so I quickly told Sam. He replied that it was fine and I would be able ride a three-wheeler bike. I got on the three-wheeler and rode the bike from Juxtaposition Arts to 26th Avenue. I crashed a couple of times, but it felt good to say I rode the bike to the site.
What were the kids’ ideas for the river?
MA: My lab and I went on a kayaking trip with Project Sweetie Pie to see the Upper Harbor Terminal site and it was really fun. When I saw the site, I was really amazed because I had never been that close to the Mississippi River. We held group discussions with the youth from Project Sweetie Pie, Urban Strategies, and Asian Media Access.
Lanijah Warfield-Wright, age 16
How has the community engagement process changed your view of the river?
Lanijah Warfield-Wright: It made me appreciate the river way more than I do. It’s nice to hear the vision of removing the industry along the river so we can make it more accessible to everyone and clean up the environment.
What did the kids we partnered with learn from these engagements?
LWW: I think they learned to think creatively and have fun doing something they’ve never done. I feel since after the event we have more open discussions which always is a good way to get feedback.
What do you look forward to along the river?
LWW: I just want more interactive hands-on things along the parkway. I also think they can have more eco-friendly things. The first time I kayaked was with JXTA. I like it because I get to still use my rowing skills but with kayaking.
Featured image: Youth kayaking on the Mississippi, summer 2017