Body art and Cedar Avenue to Art


Adrienne Dorn works at Cedar Cultural Center, and she likes Riverside Plaza’s architecture so much that she wears it on her arm. Dorn wrote to Sheila Regan:

My name is Adrienne and I work at The Cedar Cultural Center. Someone alerted me to your post indicating that you are writing a reporting project about the Riverside Plaza. We would love to be involved. As you probably know, The Cedar is located right next to the towers. We recently received a $55,000 grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to engage the neighborhood’s East African population (most of whom live in the towers) with our programming. It would be great to get a mention of this in your articles. What’s more, one of our board members is part of the Riverside Partners. Oh yeah, plus I have the towers tattooed on my arm.

Here’s the description of the project that she sent:

PROJECT SUMMARY: The Cedar will partner with Brian Coyle Center, African Development Center, Project for Pride in Living, and West Bank School of Music to engage Twin Cities’ East African communities (primarily those living in Cedar-Riverside) with a comprehensive arts program that uses music events as the focal point.

The Cedar will schedule a number of events in its 2010/11 season specifically targeting the East African community. Performers will be chosen based on suggestions from partnering organizations who will solicit programming ideas directly from community members. The program allows The Cedar to work in and with the targeted community from the planning stages. Together, the organizations will develop a comprehensive arts program and develop an engagement strategy that overcomes barriers to participation and excites community members. Additional activities include socials, music performances by youth, workshops and demonstrations with performing artists, and focus groups.

TIME FRAME: July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2011

• build participation in the arts by engaging community members who don’t have access to art and cultural events
• build a sense of community in the neighborhood
• promote inter-cultural appreciation by presenting arts from other cultures
• facilitate cross-cultural interaction by engaging a diverse audience
• integrate Minnesota’s largest and newest immigrants.

Note: This program will include a mix of on and off-site programming. We want to do two things: 1) Engage East African immigrants residing in the Twin Cities with arts and cultural programming by bringing artists of interest to them; we will schedule artists who are performing at The Cedar to perform additional events in spaces where East Africans live, work, or already frequent. 2) More importantly, we want to bring the target community to The Cedar; this could mean facilitating transportation or scheduling programs during times when we don’t normally hold events; we will be most successful in attracting a diverse audience if we work to bring East Africans to The Cedar’s space. At the end of the grant period, we hope to develop a sense among the East African community that The Cedar is also their space. 

High-rise ghettos or urban villages?
Are the Riverside Plaza and Seward high-rise apartment complexes, home to low-income residents for more than 35 years, “beyond merely shabby” and filled with crime? Or are they “a vital and fascinating mix of cultures … a series of villages in the city with the opportunity to begin life in the United States among one’s countrymen?” Our series highlights concerns and facts, featuring the voices and stories of people who live and work in the communities. Click here for links to all of the articles in the series.