Jun 17, 2021

Grassroots Community Engagement led by Artspace's Rafala Green Fellows Aims to Thread Equity through Cultural Mapping

New Artspace voices are amplifying equity in the development process in the Northeast Arts District and surrounding area, partly due to efforts from the Rafala Green Fellowship program. The intentionality of the fellows threading racial equity and cultural diversity throughout the work is taking shape from the ground up. With a history in community organizing and planning, 2021 fellows Shalom Cook and Pablo Lituma have chosen to feature cultural/counter-mapping of Northeast Minneapolis as a part of their community engagement work with the Northrup King Building Complex (NKBC).


The fellows shared that counter-mapping is about reverse engineering a tool, historically used to oppress Indigenous peoples and communities of color, to one that gives agency to all those who contribute to and share a common connection to place. It’s about honoring the history and memories of space, all while celebrating diverse art and cultures that tie people together. The fellows’ first goal has been to seek out those who contribute to the cultural richness of the Northeast (NE) Minneapolis area but have historically lacked representation in the NKBC.


The fellows set out to explore where art lives in the NE and to find where people go to find community. They began canvasing the NE community to understand where neighborhoods start and stop, indulging in the local cuisine, and listening to the stories from neighborhood residents. The fellows have begun to speak with culture bearers from Latino, Somali, and Middle Eastern communities, whose art and culture has had great influence in the community but is under-represented in the Northeast. As the fellows are familiarizing community members with Artspace’s work and compiling data from surveys and maps, there has been the opportunity to listen to the experiences of residents and artists living in the NE community.


As NKB’s new owner, Artspace aims to increase accessibility and equitable representation of BIPOC artists.Ongoing dialog and tactics like cultural/counter-mapping have begun to create opportunities for culturally diverse neighborhood members and BIPOC artists to get to know Artspace and to exercise agency in their community. More to come from the fellows as they complete their cultural mapping early this fall and share back to the NE community.

Northrup King Building
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