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Minneapolis Parks Foundation > Common Ground > Projects > Keiona Cook of Lovely’s Sewing Fashioned a Positive Way to Collect Data at North Commons

Keiona Cook of Lovely’s Sewing Fashioned a Positive Way to Collect Data at North Commons

Keiona Cook knows what people like. “When you’re working in community, you need to meet people where they are,” she says from her co-working homebase in Minneapolis’s North Loop. “People want experiences – reasons to get dressed up, get together, and celebrate.”

Cook is the Executive Director and Lead Educator of Lovely’s Sewing & Arts Collective, a non-profit she founded 13 years ago to use age-old and infinitely useful and creative sewing skills ​“to shift and heal the mindset of our youth through unity and community bridge-building, one sewing stitch at a time.”

Last August, Cook hosted a pop-up fashion show at North Commons Park, which the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is currently in planning and design to give its most significant update since the 1970s. Lovely’s Sewing is one of the project’s five Community Collaborators – a program created by the Park Board to empower community members and organizations to engage their community around a project in a way that is meaningful to them.

The North Commons fashion show featured hand-made original designs from Keiona Cook and modeled by the Lovely’s Sewing youth involved in the program. Attracting about 100 people to the heart of North Minneapolis, the event engaged attendees in a novel and successful way around the Park Board’s community input survey. With questions mounted on hand-held boards, kids walked them from guest to guest like a personal invitation to contribute their ideas to improve the park. “This was truly a wonderful experience for us all collecting the data,” says Cook. “Some parents said they had been to other events that had park surveys, but they didn’t feel drawn to fill them out until this event.”

Most people wouldn’t think to connect parks planning and bespoke fashion, but Cook intuits the connection between skill- and mind-building and community-building. She’s partnered on events, classes, and innovations with the Modern Quilt Guild, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie, REM5 VR Lab, The Loppet Foundation, and Fashion Week MN, with a project with ALIGHT supporting Ukrainian refugees starting soon. “Our lessons and events encourage people to merge with other races, social classes, and cultures,” Cook says. “We create positive experiences that connect people in a positive way.”

” I am for the kids, who I needed when I was a kid. I needed someone to uplift, hold me accountable and also empower me to EXPLORE my wildest DREAMS.”

~Keiona Cook~

Discover more events, partnerships, and classes at Lovely’s Sewing and Arts Collective on their website.

Image credit: Photos courtesy Keiona Cook/Lovely’s Sewing

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