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UMN Liberal Arts Engagement Hub Residencies for 2020-21 Announced

Five Hub residencies will create intentional collaborations between the community and college
October 12, 2020

The second year of residencies have been selected for The Liberal Arts Engagement Hub (The Hub), part of the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts. The Hub is designed to be a place and approach to engagement that will deepen the college’s culture of engagement with the community and present an inviting community portal to the University of Minnesota. 

A Hub Residency provides space for public engagement initiatives to faculty, students, staff, and/or community members through an application process for limited periods of time (e.g., a semester during the academic year, a month during the summer, etc.). At the end of their occupancy of the Hub space, one or more leaders of the residency project will be expected to serve on the Hub Advisory Committee to review future project applications and advise on the Hub’s ongoing operation.

The college received 11 applications for Hub residencies. Applicants demonstrated the tremendous range of projects that can be supported by The Hub and intentional efforts to facilitate reciprocal engagement between the college and the community. Five Hub residency proposals were selected (including two renewals of existing residencies) and the projects will take place for various lengths of time during the 2020-21 academic year.  

The Power of African Languages and Oral Tradition

The power of African languages and oral tradition to shape historical consciousness and diasporic sensibility is at the heart of the project. For many Africans in Minnesota, in particular, the language can literally become a place of habitation, where recollections of home and family, combined with their own distinct experiences of migration, displacement, and dispersal collide in dynamic ways to produce a sense of belonging and togetherness, as well as irresolution.

The project will encourage connection-making among students who enroll in our Somali and Swahili language courses, instructors, and community partners to foster both creativity and community building. Included in the project are a pilot podcast program curated and produced by Julia Nekessa Opoti called “The Power of African Languages and Oral Tradition” and a Somali language and literature study circle led by Said Salah Ahmed. 

Hallie Q. Brown Community Archive

The Hallie Q. Brown (HQB) Community Archive is composed of more than 2,000 artifacts of the Black experience in Minnesota dating from the mid-nineteenth century forward. HQB positions itself as an important site of community memories and collaboration for Black people in Minnesota. The HQB residency will focus on designing and producing in-house photo exhibits and interactive digital displays, online materials for audiences restricted by current COVID-19 policy or who are outside Minnesota, and creating curriculum modules and training for K-12 educators. 

Metro Blooms/The Backyard Phenology Project 

The project realizes a key collaboration between Metro Blooms and The Backyard Phenology Project to amplify the voices of the community through stories gathered during a multi-year community effort to engage environmental justice communities in the Phillips, Corcoran, and Harrison neighborhoods of Minneapolis to replace traditional turf with wildlife-friendly native plants. Pathways to careers in green infrastructure will be supported by building community and university connections, sharing our stories and experience, and using data-driven, scientific guidance. Community youth and young adults will be equitably compensated to take leadership roles in helping to define and implement the project.

Ecosong.Net

Ecosong.Net uses collaborative media production to support local communities' stewardship efforts. This work revolves around the creation of Song Gardens. The Riverside Plaza Tenants Association, Metro Blooms, residents of Marcy Holmes, and Atomic K Studios partnered to record musicians from each community as they performed songs created specifically for their local rain garden. A plaque has been "planted" in each garden listing its song and a QR code that allows visitors to listen to the song.

Song gardens have been created in Cedar-Riverside, Marcy-Holmes, and Northeast Minneapolis, as well as the university’s Rapson Hall; they gardens are focal points for community efforts to foster biodiversity, ecological awareness, and environmental justice. Community partners, guest artists, and UMN students will spread these “seeds of awareness” to new song gardens and social media, showing how the liberal arts can be a catalyst for community change.

Friends of Midway Peace Park

Friends of Midway Peace Park (formed during residency year one) will continue congregating, demystifying, and systematizing community engagement techniques for Midway Peace Park. To preserve and promote more of this collaborative work, a website will be developed that shares the park story, delivers park interpretation in multiple languages, hosts the primary park calendar and city park reservation link, and assists educators to replicate work like this in more classrooms. The project will plan a summit to take place at The Hub about the Midway Peace Park story which will inspire future educators and staff at the University of Minnesota to enter into similar collaborations.

“The better CLA is at its work, the better its research, the more ready its graduates, the greater impact it will have on the lives of individuals and communities alike,” said Dean of the College John Coleman about The Hub’s mission and purpose. 

The Hub is intended to show and to contribute toward CLA’s goal of engagement with the community and eventually will be housed in a newly renovated Pillsbury Hall, which is scheduled to open in fall 2021. The Hub in Pillsbury will provide dedicated physical space (more than 2,000 square feet) for humanistic scholars in the arts, humanities, and social sciences to come together in a spirit of co-creation and reciprocal partnership to respond to important social problems.  

Members of the CLA community and the wider community are invited to apply for future Hub residencies