“You have higher expectations for yourself when you try new things. I don’t have to be held back by others.” That is only part of what 17-year-old Sandy has learned through the 29th Street Petal Pushers project at Old Arizona Collaborative in Minneapolis.
Elizabeth Trumble and Darcy Knight, co-founders of the collaborative, hadn’t planned to be youth workers. In the early 1990s, when they acquired the space at 29th and Nicollet, the building had a studio for TV and film production. But they found out they had just located at the fourth leading corner for drug dealing and prostitution in Minneapolis.
“In my mind prostitution was always adult women but these were little kids,” Knight said. “We started talking to the girls and asking them why they were doing it. Of course to make money, but there was a man making them do it,” Trumble added. They decided to provide a space to get girls off the street.
“We opened the doors and invited them in” Trumble explained. Trumble and Knight asked instructors and artists they knew to get involved. The girls were mentored in filmmaking. There is a dance studio and theater space. “Over 100 girls showed up for our open house on April 30, 1995 and ever since girls continue to come,” Trumble said. To date over 1,800 teen girls have participated in programs at Old Arizona.
Growing flowers and consciousness
Their newest initiative has an old story. Many Twin Cities residents remember Log Cabin Flowers-literally a log cabin on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. It had been owned and operated by women since it was built in 1945, but was slated for demolition in 2006. The Old Arizona Collaborative moved the structure to its location and is planning to give it a new life with a new generation of women, as 29th Street Petal Pushers. In addition to growing flowers, Trumble and Knight intend to grow young “socially conscious businesswomen.”
The collaborative had been initially funded by the State of Minnesota and later by Hennepin County, but this spring the county’s funding ended. Old Arizona has some private and foundation support and it is looking for more. Fundraising is under way to renovate the log cabin into classroom and retail space. “We will get it,” said a determined Knight.
Some of the girls who have been involved with writing the business plan and soliciting foundations for funding tell the story best.
“I have learned to be open minded. People here speak their mind and not judge them by what they say. It makes you older and more responsible for stuff that happens around you,” said 14-year-old Dakessa.
“Girls are always thinking about their fantasies but the business plan can help them think forward and stay on track,” said 14-year-old Kolang.
“It’s not a very good neighborhood around here. They get involved in really bad situations. Everyone’s in conflict and fighting with each other and gangs and violence. [Here] you can get away from the streets for a while and it would be like a sanctuary away from all of that,” Sandy said.
FFI: Contributions to Old Arizona Collaborative can be sent to 2821 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55408, www.oldarizona.com
Where do you see women connecting and making change in your world? Send me your story, firstname.lastname@example.org.