The Richfield Area Resident Engagement (RARE) was a placemaking initiative that utilized participatory art as a tool to strengthen communal relationships during the redevelopment of an abandoned gardening store.
Richfield, Minnesota is a small inner ring suburb in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. The former Lyndale Garden Center space, which closed in 2006 and become abandoned, was the focus of the redevelopment. The former retail space was located at the center of a lower-income community of color which experienced decades of disinvestment. In response to the property’s deterioration, the City of Richfield approached local developer The Cornerstone Group about transforming the site into a multipurpose community hub. Cornerstone began the development planning process through hosting community listening sessions and learned that while residents wanted to see new public gathering spaces and amenities to support healthy lifestyles, they also wanted the redevelopment to embrace the surrounding community through art and cultural activities. Based on these conversations, Cornerstone group partnered with Forecast, a local public arts nonprofit, to help manifest the community’s desire to see local art play a central role in the redevelopment. Forecast created the RARE artist-in-residency program.
Through financial support provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board, RARE artists-in-residence collaborated with community members on a variety of arts projects which took place alongside the site redevelopment with the goal of strengthening communal relationships. A few projects include a local portrait gallery as well as poems and poetry performances. For his project Roots in Richfield, artist Witt Siasoco painted large scale portraits of residents he’d interviewed during his residency and displayed the portraits on a vacant lot next to a local bus stop. As part of the project, Siasoco hired residents to help support creation of the portraits as well as to paint their own for display at the lot. In another complimentary project, Community Connections, poets and community organizers Sha Cage and E. G. Bailey hosted poetry workshops, performances, and worked with over 200 residents to create a “community poem.” Beginning with the prompt “I am from”, Richfield residents were asked to contribute their own phrase to the larger poem. Phrases from the community poem were later incorporated into a mosaic built into a new community amphitheater. Other residency projects included gardening themed painting classes and the creation of a community quilt from resident created patches which expressed their hopes and dreams for themselves and the community at-large. As the Lyndale site redevelopment continues, local arts engagement continues to evolve.
Property Type: Commercial Structure
Project Type/ New Use: Art – Small Scale (e.g. painting; performance; visual)
Project Purpose: Community engagement; Community informed redevelopment
Initial Cost: $100,000-$250,000
Funding Source: Philanthropic, private
Organization Type: Nonprofit - Arts and Culture
Implementation Partners: Private developer, Nonprofit - Arts & Culture, State Government
Community Type: Suburban