Last month I wandered through a South Minneapolis community art constellation event wondering why nothing cool like that ever happens in my neighborhood. Much to my delight I found out something cool is happening – a “Tell Your Story” Open Mic is happening next Thursday evening (October 18, 7:00-9:00) at King Studios (249 South Snelling Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105).
The event is happening due to the vision and persistence of Harry Kent and Abbie Shain at Macalester College. It’s the first in a series and it’s built around the idea of a local Little Free Library and a desire to bring the Macalester community into conversation with surrounding neighbors and friends as they communally share art.
I’m not sure about the rest of town, but the Little Free Libraries have been popping up around Mac Groveland. I remember seeing one house with the now familiar birdhouse-like library in the front yard last summer. Now I seem see them everywhere. The idea originates from the Little Free Library project, an international effort to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges.
Harry and Abbie were interested in setting up a Little Free Library for Macalester and the surrounding community to help Macalester writers share their voices and writing with the community via an easy access point. They also wanted a place that could act as a community gathering spot.
They applied for (and got) a $500 grant from the Macalester Civic Engagement Center Action Fund, a fund supported by Macalester alums to help fund community projects. Then they set out to find a community partner to host the library and the community-building events.
Last summer they connected with Lindsey Clayton and Andy King, of King Studios. It was a perfect match and as a neighbor, I have to say I appreciate that they went off campus with the idea. It probably would have been quicker and easier to choose a location on campus, but I think to get community participation it was wise to choose more neutral ground. The library currently lives outside of the arts studio; thanks to some creative engineering, it hangs from the gallery roof – just a few doors down from the St. Clair Broiler.
The plan is to host a series of events at King Studios. They are starting with a community storytelling event as sort of a means of advertising the library and inviting community members to share their stories so that Macalester can learn about the surrounding community and that Mac-Groveland folks have the chance to share their stories. They are looking to host future events such as poetry readings, readings from Macalester authors, and hopefully a literary collaborative event that gets community members to make something together.
The goal is to create an arts network in the surrounding area for Macalester and its neighbors. Kind of exciting stuff for those of us in the ‘hood!
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