Across the country, we are seeing an emphasis of property development, land ownership, and property ownership as key strategies used to advance social change in culturally distinct communities. These strategies curb the threat of economic gentrification and contribute to wealth-building in areas that have experienced long-term structural divestment or rapid growth that does not benefit existing communities. Additionally, it makes apparent who is leading activity in the real estate development field—and often, that leadership lacks racial diversity. The Rafala Green Fellowship Program is a new initiative from Artspace. Launched in 2018, the program’s goal is to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion for people from communities traditionally underrepresented in the real estate development field. The program is currently seeking emerging BIPOC leaders who are supporting the arts, working in the community development sphere, and seeking to build skills related to all aspects of affordable housing, including real estate development, operational and financial planning, cross-sector partnerships, community engagement, and cultural preservation. The long-term goal of the program is that fellows will leverage the knowledge gained to advance social change. This is a paid fellowship program offering a two-year residency, providing fellows with an intimate peak behind the curtain of real estate development and exposure to Artspace best practices. Through the experience of working on Artspace teams, fellows will also gain access to national leaders in the field and expand their network through attending professional development activities and arts and cultural events across the country. Last year, Artspace welcomed inaugural Rafala Green Fellows Amanda Cortés and Jeremy Staab for the 2018-20 iteration of the program.
The program seeks to intentionally bring individuals with diverse cultural perspectives into the field of arts-based real estate development. The Rafala Green Fellowship creates a space for both a knowledge transfer as Artspace develops the skills of its fellows, as well as a knowledge shift as Artspace learns from its fellows’ fresh perspectives. Artspace has, at the core of its mission, a commitment to empower artists and the arts sector. Through the Rafala Green Fellowship, Artspace deepens its commitment to nurture new leaders in the field, supporting their growth and development to become drivers in guiding arts-based community development wherever their career may lead them. The program, made possible with funding from the Ford Foundation, is named in honor of the late Rafala Green, an African American artist, community activist, and former Artspace board member who helped Artspace make enduring bridges into the Twin Cities’ African American community in the 1990s. Green is best known for her painting, loom work, and mosaics, as well as her ability to use art as an effective tool for advancing social change. Fellows will be based within the Properties Division at Artspace headquarters in Minneapolis, MN. Fellows work full-time engaging in practitioner-based curriculum and cross-departmental learning opportunities. Although fellows will work on real projects in the Artspace pipeline, they will also go through a series of assessments to develop a customized learning path to determine areas of focus. Fellows will also coproduce Artspace’s new podcast, Artspace Perspectives. This is a paid fellowship, and selected participants will receive a $50,000 annual salary during their two-year tenure, as well as up to $3,000 in relocation.