COMMUNITY VOICES | Frogtown Fresh Is In the air


Art + Community = Frogtown Fresh is a collaboration with the Frogtown Neighborhood Association and the Creative Thinkers Group. The Creative Thinkers Group was started by Vong Lee, who was hired by Springboard for The Arts as an Artist Organizer for the Frogtown Neighborhood Association (FNA). Lee met with FNA and asked them the issues they wanted to address in the Frogtown Community. Caty Royce (Executive Director) and Sam Buffington (Organizing Director) wanted to address the vacant lots, foreclosure and vacant homes in Frogtown.

Lee, an Artist in his own right, wanted to get other artist community leaders from Frogtown involved. Lee got in touch with: Seitu Jones, Tou Lee, Leroy Duncan, Sheronda Orridge, Justin James, and Fres Thao and held dinner & conversation events to plan out the future of artist and community partnerships. This group came to be known as the Creative Thinkers. 

The first initiative taken by the Creative Thinkers was the Lot Squats, where FNA and Artists took over vacant lots in the Frogtown Community where they would get the neighbors out and talk about the vacant spaces in Frogtown and get ideas on what to do with these spaces.

As the winter came and brought the cold, it was time to move inside. This led to phase 2: Frogtown Fresh. In Frogtown Fresh, FNA and Preserve Frogtown work on rehabbing vacant houses, while the Creative Thinkers utilize their art and creativity to draw attention to the houses being rehabbed.

The idea for Frogtown Fresh began when Lee was watching a video of Theaster Gates (below.) He was inspired by the work Gates was doing in the Midwest working with artists to turn abandon houses into community spaces. As he started planning for the project, Lee also added to the team Malia Lee, an architecture student at the U of M. For the past month there have been several art installations by visual arts Kao Lee Thao, Seitu Jones, Brian Sobaski, and Gita Patina.

The art installations is a build up to a big open house community celebration on Saturday June 21st, 2014 from 2pm – 7pm. This is a three-part event. There will be a lunch and performances, then a march, then more performances and a dinner. The first part of this celebration starts off at West Minnehaha Rec Center on 685 W. Minnehaha in St. Paul, where there will be lunch, an open mic and live performances by: Tish Jones, Leroy Duncan, Tou Saiko Lee, and The Crew (Break Dancers).

At 4:30 pm, there will be a march led by The Next Generation Drum Line from the Rec Center to 452 Thomas, where the fun continues with more performances by storyteller Anthony Galloway, spoken word artist Sheronda Orridge, and break dancing by Floor Tribe, followed by dinner and tours of the newly renovated house.