Some neighbors upset with new parking fees at YWCA Midtown

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

Y management says the new system will relieve congestion and misuse of the lot by non-members using the private lot

(Editor’s note: Reporter Tesha M. Christensen is a neighborhood resident and has been a member of the Midtown YWCA since 2013.)

Some neighborhood residents and Y members are upset that the Midtown YWCA is now charging for parking.
They’re questioning why the change was made without member input, why other options weren’t considered, and why very little notice was given.

Most of all, members are upset about what amounts to a minimum $180 increase in fees for those who drive a vehicle to the YWCA on the heels of a project that closed the locker rooms for the entire summer.

Photo right: Neighbors are worried about traffic back-ups along 22nd Ave. once the new parking gates are active. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Ericsson resident Kristen Olsen is so bitter and disillusioned about the added cost and the lack of member involvement in addressing the parking situation that she canceled her membership and moved to the St. Paul JCC across the river. She had joined the YWCA in 2013.

“The parking fees amount to a substantial increase in our monthly fitness costs,” pointed out Olsen. “For my family, it’s a $15 per month increase.”

Olsen doesn’t think that the ‘solution’ is consistent with the problem identified by the YWCA, which is unauthorized parking by non-members.

“If that is truly the problem the Y is trying to solve, it could be easily addressed by installing a parking gate that scans a member card to get in, or offering two hours of free parking for members, then charging for extended visits,” said Olsen. “Instead, the Y is assessing a cost on its own members to fix a problem caused by non-members. It doesn’t seem fair to impose a penalty on members for a problem they didn’t cause.”

Olsen added, “The Y gave very little notice of the cost increase and did not include members in discussions about the problem and how it might be addressed. The Y had info sessions and sought member feedback on remodeling the locker rooms, for example. Why didn’t it include its own community and all the stakeholders in a change to the parking lot that affects almost every member who uses the club? They lost a lot of goodwill in how they rolled out this change, in my opinion.”

Letter/email sent mid-August
Members received a letter around Aug. 16 that was dated Aug. 3 and lacked the signature of a specific staff member. Instead, it was signed by “YWCA management.” An email also went out that day.

The letter announced that the YWCA Midtown was implementing a new pay parking gate system to “relieve the congestion and current misuse” of the parking lot. Installation began in August.

The YWCA has been charging for parking at its Downtown location since 1998, and about the same at the Uptown location, according to spokesperson Corinne Mattli.

Photo left: It cost about $200,000 to install the new system, which includes four parking gates and software to interface with a billing system. There is one entry and three exit gates. The YWCA Board voted on the change in June. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

There will be a 20-minute free grace period for members and program participants entering the lot who are picking up or dropping off. After that free period, parking rates at the gate start at $1 for up to 1.25 hours; 1.25-2.5 hours costs $2; with an increasing fee up to $20 for six or more hours. Credit cards will be accepted at the exit lanes, and a cash/coin/credit “pay-on-foot” station will be available. Members have the option to set up an auto-load parking card for $15 a month plus tax that will reload automatically with a monthly debit withdrawal. Members can also opt to get a stored value card that can be loaded with funds for a 10 percent credit on the total value purchased.

Families who receive their fitness memberships on scholarship based on their income will receive a free parking pass.

It cost about $200,000 to install the new system, which includes four parking gates and software to interface with a billing system. There are one entry and three exit gates. The YWCA Board voted on the change in June.

The YWCA did not have an estimate of how much the system will cost each year to maintain, nor did staff provide numbers on how much revenue the parking fees are expected to generate. Midtown YWCA General Manager Alex Aguilar stated that they expect it will take a few years to garner the $200,000 the system cost to install.

Currently, the Y is replacing about six gates at the Uptown location each year after drivers run into them.

The Midtown YWCA has about 20 bicycle spaces and plans to add additional bicycle racks, according to Aguilar.

The lot remains for members only
YWCA representatives point out that the area around the Midtown location has changed drastically since the Y moved in 18 years ago. There’s a new Hennepin County service building across 22nd Ave. S. with a paid parking lot, and the Park-and-Ride there was removed. The next phase of that project will add about 500 housing units. The light rail station at Hiawatha and Lake St. sees about 30,000 riders each week. Plus, the school district is wrapping up construction of a new Adult Education Center on the west side of the YWCA.

“It’s become more and more difficult to maintain the parking lot as a private privilege to our members,” stated Aguilar.
The Midtown lot has 178 spaces, and there have been signs in the lot for years that designate it as a member-only lot.
A few years ago, the Y’s 4,800 members received parking permits to place on their rearview mirrors when in the lot to identify themselves.

However, YWCA management contends that it has been a personal safety issue for staff to enforce that it is a member-only lot when drivers refuse to cooperate. “There have been too many incidences to count,” said Aguilar. A few cars have been towed.

Although the issue has been non-member use, the new system does not scan a member’s card before a car may enter the lot, nor does it scan a membership card when payment is made. There will continue to be signs in the lot stating it is a member-only lot, and a new sign will be placed by the entry gate. Staff will not be patrolling the lot to ensure compliance with the requirement that only members park in the lot, but if they notice that a particular vehicle seems to be a problem repeatedly, they can access video footage to help figure out if the vehicle belongs to a member or not.

The YWCA has not hired specific staff to patrol the lot and don’t plan to. Instead they have opted for an automatic system.

Some members not convinced
“This really is a last resort,” stressed YWCA Minneapolis President and CEO Luz Maria Frias. “We have a history of taking other measures with no success.”

Not all members agree with that statement, however.

“The case that the Y has made for the parking fee is not convincing,” wrote Standish-Ericsson residents Doris Overby and Dick Taylor in a letter to the Y on behalf members on Aug. 20. “In fact, the Y’s own rationale undermines the need for a parking fee. Why? Because their core reason is to deflect the wrongful use of the parking lot by non-members. One demerit of this policy is that it imposes an extra cost on many members, the very people not responsible for the problem.”

The two suggested that the fixed cost of the new parking system could be spread out over more years and the rate charged to members be reduced.

A second letter on Aug. 29 continued their argument against the new parking fees.

“The members of the Minneapolis YWCA are stakeholders with rights and genuine interests. They deserve respect and consideration. Our grievances beg to be redressed.”

On behalf of themselves and others, they suggested that a meeting be held with members.
The YWCA is not planning to hold a meeting.

“Unlike in the case of the locker room renovation for which we solicited feedback regarding the preference between the number of showers versus lockers, this was an operational and financial decision that falls well within the purview of the YWCA management,” stated Frias.

She stressed that the Y is a private non-profit—not a government entity—and doesn’t need to seek public input in decisions.
Frias added that they have heard from bicyclists and transit users who thank them for not imposing a fee for a parking lot on them.

Others think that parking should be included in their membership fees.

“The cost is not a pittance for many people. It’s $180/year. If a business (and the Y is a business) wants clients, they need to provide parking just like Target does, the bank, and even the post office does,” stated Corcoran resident Gaylyn Bicking.

“Some people have no choice but to drive due to the distance they live from the Y,” pointed out Bicking. “Some have young children. Some are elderly. Walking during our long, dark winters is problematic for women and older people.”

Corcoran resident John V. Burling pointed out, “Every paying member subsidizes everything that goes into the Y, presumably at all locations, with their dues whether they use a service or not.” Burling noted that some people don’t use the free childcare or the waterslide; they haven’t been in the sauna or the steam room; used the basketball courts or the treadmills; or participated in the women’s triathlon or any other group classes. Yet, a membership includes all these things–and should also include parking as an amenity.

The YWCA did not provide figures on how many memberships have been dropped because of the changes to the parking lot. Nor did they provide information on the last membership rate increase.

Concern about mistreatment
Twenty-five-year YWCA member Dick Taylor of Powderhorn and six-year-member Doris Overby of Standish have not yet decided whether they will remain YWCA members, and say it hinges upon the YWCA response to the parking issue, as well as an incident that happened to Overby while collecting signatures at the Midtown YWCA on Aug. 20. She was told to leave the property.

According to a letter posted publicly on the Standish-Ericsson e-Democracy forum, “Members were eagerly signing the letter when the assistant manager and the security official approached Ms. Overby in such an unfriendly way that she was made to feel hurt, embarrassed, confused, frightened, and defensive.”

Taylor and Overby stated, “We are alarmed and dismayed at the discourteous and unnecessary treatment meted out to Doris; we are disappointed by a lack of responsiveness to our concerns. The lack of response is simply a continuation of the lack of respect that has characterized this matter from the beginning.”

When asked for details about the incident, Frias and Aguilar declined to comment.

Taylor and Overby are asking for a written apology made to Overby by the CEO; a review of the protocol for staff member interactions with members that guarantees mutual respect so that the YWCA lives up to its own goals and mission; and a forum open to all members to discuss both aspects of the matter.




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Seward Co-op ‘seed program’ is a respected, nationwide model

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

Seward Co-op first opened its doors in 1972, and along with the community it has grown and diversified over the years. Starting at 22nd and Franklin, the store expanded and moved to 2108 Franklin Ave. in 1998. An additional need for expansion brought it to its present location at 2823 Franklin Ave in 2009.

“But after a few years even with this space, we needed more room and we’re getting complaints about parking,” said Abby Rogosheske (photo right by Jan Willms), education and outreach coordinator for Seward Co-op. “We felt the need to open a second store at 317 E. 38th St., the Friendship Store. That store opened in 2015.”

At the same time, the co-op owners realized a central production facility was needed for the stores. That facility opened in 2015 in a former creamery building at 2601 E. Franklin. Downstairs is the production facility where all deli items, bakery items, and sausage are made for both stores. Upstairs houses the administrative offices. And because of zoning requirements, a storefront was needed, and so the Creamery Café was born.

“We thought also having a café was a good thing,” Rogosheske said. “Our manager, Sean, talks about a three-space concept: home, work, and community.” The café, as well as the stores, provides for a community gathering place.

Having the additional room has allowed the co-op to pursue several programs for the community. One of these is the seed program, which refers to a grant that the co-op can run. “The concept is that each of us plants a little seed,” Rogosheske said. The idea began with the opening of the co-op on 28th and Franklin. “It started as part of a March food drive,” Rogosheske explained. “All the co-ops have a friendly competition to see how much money and food we can raise. We ask customers to round up to the nearest dollar on a purchase. And that additional money goes for a food shelf.”

She said the drive was such a success that the cashiers said Seward Co-op should do this every month. “It was an entirely staff-led initiative,” Rogosheske continued. “So at that point, a committee was formed, and we as a staff choose one of the recipient organizations every month to receive the round-up. I facilitate the process, but specifically, the cashiers at the two stores and front of the house at the café are the ones who do this. They do the work, asking customers if they want to round up and if they want to hear about the organization.”

Rogosheske said it is a very competitive process. “We had a hundred applicants this year,” she said. The average donation comes to about 40 cents, but the money raised from the two stores and café is considerable. The August check for that month’s selected organization, Mad Dads, was $23,000.

“We can raise over $20,000 every month,” Rogosheske said. “To me, that is the power of a cooperative community right there, when each gives about 40 cents but all come together as support within our community.”

Rogosheske said each applicant writes a two-page application essay. “I put it into a giant binder,” she said, “along with other supplementary materials. The committee then reads through everything.”

The applications are on the Seward Co-op website in mid to late May, with a submission deadline of June 30. The selection process is worked on throughout the summer.

The process has been switched up a bit this year, according to Rogosheske. “It’s such a popular program; we wanted to provide more opportunity for the community to participate besides just rounding up. So this year we tried an experiment.”

The staff committee selected eight recipients out of the 12. Ten other finalists were selected, for a total of 18. “Those ten get smaller grants from Seward Community Fund,” Rogosheske explained. “A Community Choice vote for those ten was launched Sept. 19. Anyone can vote for the top four choices from that list. An organization can get its name out there, and there will be a new level of engagement from the community.”

She said the selections are pretty much narrowed to the Twin Cities. The choices for organizations reflect the communities served and ownerships that reflect diversity are a priority. Although the vast majority of organizations that are awarded monthly are nonprofits, some for-profit farm organizations have been selected in the past.

The September winner of the seed program was Capi, a food shelf that is specific to Asian immigrants. The October selection is the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA).

Rogosheske said finalists in the Community Choice vote would be announced by late September, with the final winners announced at the Seward Co-op annual meeting Oct. 30. “We recognize the selections at the meeting, and people get applauded,” she said.

Photo left: Tamales y Bicicletas was the Farm Table program in July 2018. (Photo provided)

At the beginning of each month, representatives from the selected organization come into the Co-op and train the cashiers so they can talk about the organization when asking customers to round up. That same month, according to Rogosheske, the organization has representatives tabling at the stores and interacting with customers, so they are confident about where their money is going.

“At the end of the month, we do a check ceremony, have some treats and hand over the check,” Rogosheske said. “Whatever amount people have rounded up to is given to the organization, with no percentage taken out by the Co-op.”

She said other co-ops are doing similar programs, but Seward could be considered a national model for the process. “We get a lot of phone calls asking how we run our program,” she said.

Another innovation Seward has started is the Farm Table dinner, held once per quarter. “We try to align with seed recipients, and the meal is sourced partially from their food. The meal is held in our café, created by our executive chef and sourced from the seed recipient. Our next one is coming up Oct. 23, a three-course dinner that will raise awareness about that month’s seed recipient, HAFA.”

Seward Co-op also supports other co-op programs, such as Village Financial Cooperative, that is specifically African-American led. “There is a perception of food co-ops started by white hippies in the 1970s in white spaces, but there is a long history of co-op development in African American communities,” she said. “We have conversations about how do we support a more cooperative economy in general,” she added.

Some classes, some free and some for a fee that is discounted to members, are held at the Seward Co-op on a regular basis.

Classes include cooking with bulk greens, fermenting your own pickles, supply chain sustainability, soap making, and Japanese cooking.

Reflecting on her job with the Co-op, Rogosheske said she feels so proud of the seed program, the Farm Table dinners, and classes. She said Seward Co-op now has the physical space and staff to be able to offer a variety of services to the community.

She feels passionate about her job. “I love it. I have a passion for food justice and sustainability and working for justice on many levels. So whatever role the Co-op can play, I want to be part of connecting the Co-op into however we can plug in to social justice.”





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Activist planning ninth trip to Mongolia to fight domestic abuse

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

To hear Chimgee Haltarhuu tell it, she is the luckiest woman in the world—but it wasn’t always that way.

A native of Mongolia, the 53-year-old East Nokomis resident grew up in a country where domestic abuse was, and still is, widespread. She first experienced violence as a child, witnessing domestic abuse in her home. Haltarhuu said, “While this happens all over the world, there is an especially high level of cultural acceptance for men hurting women in the country of my birth.”

For years, Haltarhuu wanted to do something about it. In 2010, using all of the energy and talent at her disposal, she did.

Haltarhuu is a skilled gymnast and an experienced circus performer. A veteran acrobatics coach at the St. Paul-based Circus Juventas, she approached her boss there eight years ago with an idea. Would he be willing to sponsor a weekend performance in the Circus Juventas building, with proceeds benefiting a Mongolian circus tour? Without hesitating, co-founder and circus director Dan Butler, said, “Yes!” Mission Manduhai was born.

“Manduhai means a woman warrior hero in Mongolian,” Hal­tarhuu explained. “Our mission was to travel to remote parts of the country using free circus performances as a way to draw crowds. The people there are nomadic herders, and they never have the chance to see live entertainment. We drove through the villages in the afternoon shouting, ‘Free circus show tonight at 7!’

Because nobody owns the land in Mongolia, we could choose a flat spot anywhere, roll out our carpets, and start to rehearse.”

“Our goal with the tour,” Haltarhuu continued, “was to spread the word, especially to young people, that domestic abuse is wrong. Before each performance, I gave a short talk in Mongolian about how domestic abuse hurts women. Afterward, we handed out flyers with resource information for victims. There is a domestic abuse hotline in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, as well as a safe house where women (and their children) can stay if fleeing abusive partners. After every performance, many women would stay to tell me their stories.”

Photo right: Chimgee Haltarhuu of Mission Manduhai said, “Domestic abuse is a global issue. It’s been considered okay for men to control their wives through violence in my country, but we believe that people’s views are changing.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Haltarhuu understands the feelings of fear and hopelessness that come from being in an abusive relationship. She said, “I was a victim of domestic abuse in my first marriage too. I married young, to another circus performer; he was my first love. When he drank, he got angry—and when he got angry, he beat me.”

“I was one of the lucky ones though’” she continued. “Not many people can say that the circus saved their life. I had taken gymnastics classes when I was young, and gotten accepted into Circus College in Ulanbatar at the age of 16. I was small and strong, and I learned quickly. In 1991, I was chosen for an American tour with the Ringling Brothers Circus. I was able to leave my abusive marriage, and take our 5½-year-old son with me.”

After traveling by circus train across the United States for six years, Haltarhuu and her young son settled in Vermont. They joined the Yankee Doodle Circus in upstate New York, where she met the circus music director Eron Woods, a highly trained jazz musician who now teaches at Cadenza Music. They married and eventually found their way to East Nokomis, where they bought their first home in 2003.

Mission Manduhai has made the long journey to Mongolia eight times since that first trip in 2010. Every year, Haltarhuu has brought three or four teenage students from Circus Juventas, and hired a few young Mongolian circus performers to round out the troupe. They travel together for 3-4 weeks, logging thousands of kilometers across the often road-less countryside in rented Russian military vans. She took this summer off, and used the time to plan for the 2019 tour.

“Next year,” Haltarhuu said, “we’ll be bringing Helen Rubenstein with us, the Deputy Director of the Minneapolis-based organization Global Rights for Women. We also plan to hire a Mongolian doctor to join us. The villagers in Mongolia don’t have access to health care, and it is badly needed.”

For more information on Chimgee Haltarhuu’s Mission Manduhai, or to donate, visit Haltarhuu regularly performs around the Twin Cities with Circus Manduhai, the family circus which includes her son Tamir (now 32, and also an acrobatics coach at Circus Juventas), and her husband Eron on percussion. Check for upcoming performances at

Haltarhuu is also available for speaking engagements on her experiences, and the work of her mission to end domestic abuse in Mongolia.



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Memories and milestones fill Laughing Waters Bluegrass Festival

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The 20th Annual Laughing Waters Bluegrass Festival was held on Labor Day, Mon., Sept. 3, at Minnehaha Park. Featured performers included King Wilkie’s Dream, Pride of the Prairie, the 50th Anniversary reunion of the Middle Spunk Creek Boys, Becky Thompson and Old School, and the Sawtooth Brothers.

East Nokomis resident Alan Jesperson, a guitarist for the Middle Spunk Creek Boys, is the festival’s creator, tour-de-force, and all-around unsung hero. He said, “I had the idea for the festival back in 1998 when the performance space at Minnehaha Park was brand new. Typically, the Minneapolis Park Board doesn’t pay performers, but I knew we could do that with the help of some sponsors. This year’s sponsor list included more than 60 neighborhood businesses. The Minnehaha Avenue DQ was our very first sponsor 20 years ago, and they haven’t missed a year since.”

Photo right: Past band members (left to right) Mark Kreitzer, Steve Block, and Mark Briere saddled up to the mic. Jesperson said, “We had some great players over the years. This is where we all learned how to play in a band together.”

Jesperson rents the pavilion at Minnehaha Park and puts on what many people consider to be one of the musical highlights of summer in the Twin Cities. There’s no admission charge, plenty of seating on the benches in front of the stage, an open space for dancing, and the chance to see Minnehaha Falls in all its late summer glory.

“I spend about two months organizing the festival. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a labor of love for me,” Jesperson said.

Musicians from all over the country contact Jesperson about playing at the festival. “We’ve got the details pretty well worked out after all these years,” Jesperson said, “and it’s a nice 40-minute gig for a band. We transport the musicians and their gear from the parking area in a golf cart, and our sound man, Doug Lohman, is as good as they come. Next year we’ll be bringing Jerry Wizentowski from Milwaukee as our festival headliner. He’s a fantastic bluegrass singer, and not to be missed.”

Photo right: Alan Jesperson married his longtime sweetheart (and Middle Spunk Creek Boys bass player) Janine Kemmer, in a surprise wedding ceremony on-stage after the band finished their set.

The Middle Spunk Creek Boys are the pillar of the Laughing Waters Bluegrass Festival. The band currently has four members but has had about 25 revolve through since it started. Eighteen of the “Spunks” came back for the 50th reunion concert at Laughing Waters and played in several different combinations.

Jesperson said, “We got together at my store, and rehearsed for three days straight before the concert. I’ve never played that much guitar in my life, in such a short amount of time. It’s been a great ride though and, I’m happy to say, we’re all still friends.”
For information about next year’s festival, contact





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Largest ever 10th Annual LoLa 2018 Art Crawl was sizzling hot

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The League of Longfellow Artists (LoLa) had its tenth annual art crawl on what felt like the two sultriest days of summer: Sept. 15-16. More than 130 artists exhibited their work in 62 different locations throughout the Longfellow neighborhood.

Photo right: Brendon Farley opened his home for the LoLa Art Crawl and covered the walls with his acrylic and oil paintings. He starts every canvas by painting it with a red “ground,” then works in such a way that the red is revealed along the contour lines. Farley said, “Everything I paint is from the neighborhood. I ride my bike around, and take pictures of things that interest me; then I work from the photos to make my paintings.”

The self-guided LoLa Art Crawl is always free and allows visitors to shop for locally created, fine art and crafts at their own pace. Meeting artists face-to-face in their homes, yards, or studios is a different experience from going to a crowded art fair or store.

Visitors come by bike, on foot, car, bus, and train. Most appear to use the smartly designed, readily available map guides. But it’s also fun to just wander the neighborhood looking for the familiar, yellow and pink artist-site signs.

Photo left: Kat Bernhoft uses mosaic to make durable, colorful bird baths and table tops. A fourth-year participant in LoLa, she said, “I have another full-time job, but mosaic making is my therapy.”

LoLa started in the summer of 2009 as a grassroots effort on a much smaller scale than it is now. Longfellow artists Bob Schmitt, Anita White, and Shirley Neilson had a brainstorming session, and thought, “Why not put on an art crawl?” Fast forward a decade, and LoLa is not only a flourishing nonprofit organization—it’s become an emblematic neighborhood event that people really look forward to.

A wide variety of arts and crafts are exhibited each year, including printmaking, jewelry, fiber, photography, glass, painting, clay, sculpture, woodworking, and mixed media.

Photo right: Neighbor Steve Gagner specializes in laser cut and 3D printed art, jewelry, and functional woodworking.

LoLa has grown into “the biggest little neighborhood art crawl in Minnesota.” The un-juried show is meant to be a gateway into exhibiting art for new artists, as well as a dependable showcase for established artists. The event received broad support from neighborhood businesses and organizations again this year. For more information on future events, contact






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Transition Longfellow October 2018

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

The volunteers with Transition Longfellow create opportunities for South Minneapolis neighbors to get to know one another while also learning to live more sustainably and prepare for changes ahead. Visit for more details on these and other activities.

Transition Parents & Kids Play Group meets Sat., Oct. 6, 10am to noon at the Longfellow Park building, 3435 36th Ave. S. Join with other parents who are concerned about raising resilient kids, living a sustainable, low-waste, less consumer-oriented family life. Share conversation, resources, and ideas. In October, the group hopes to visit an orchard.

Movie Night is scheduled for Fri., Oct. 19, with a potluck at 6:30pm, and movie 7-9pm, at Minnehaha Communion Lutheran Church, 4101 37th Ave. S. Share a potluck meal, then watch the documentary “Renewal: Stories from America’s Religious Environmental Movement.”

Renewal offers an overview of what different religious traditions and congregations are doing to match environmental challenges with practical solutions.

The video includes nine short stories—Evangelical Christians in Appalachia, an urban Muslim community, the Jewish Teva Learning Center, the Green Sangha Buddhist community, Catholics and Native Americans embrace of religious ritual to protect land and water, and nature meditations.

Area faith communities are particularly invited to attend to meet others who are concerned about environmental issues and wishing to connect and act for change. For more information, please contact Leslie at 612-810-3216.

Online Summit
Transition is a national and global network of communities taking practical action to address climate change. People participating in, or interested in learning more about the Transition movement, can attend the 1st national Online Summit, celebrating the 10th anniversary of Transition in the U.S. A free local screening of the Summit will take place at Walker Community Church, 3104 16th Ave. S., on Sat., Oct. 27, from 11:30am to 4pm.

Keynote speakers include:
• Co-founder Rob Hopkins, Transition global network coordinator Sarah McAdams and U.S. co-director Don Hall, exploring the history of Transition in the U.S., success stories and common challenges. (noon)
• Meg Wheatley (author of “Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity”), will speak on “Creating Islands of Sanity: Leading Well in this Time of Increasing Turbulence.”When fear and polarization predominate, sane leadership on behalf of the human spirit provides the way forward. Wheatley asks us to consider how we can use our influence and power to evoke generosity, creativity, and community (1:30pm)

There will also be two panel discussions:
• Replicable Models for Successful Projects featuring Repair Cafes in Pasadena, CA; gleaning projects and eat local week in Sarasota, FL; Transition Streets in Berkley, CA; and the local entrepreneur forum in Decorah, IA. (12:45pm)
• Connecting to the Wider Movement featuring speakers from the Post Carbon Institute, Strong Towns, and EcoDistricts (2:15pm)
The online Summit ends with an interactive conversation. Attendees can adjourn to a shared meal at Gandhi Mahal restaurant in the community room. To reserve a spot for dinner (there is a fee), please email

Preparedness emails
Each Friday, Transition Longfellow sends out an email with actions you can take that week to become more prepared for extreme weather. Sign up for the series at the website, where you can also find past emails.

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Dogs were the stars of Bark!Art, including on stage

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

A large banner welcomed everyone to the first-ever dog and art festival, Bark!Art.

Article and all photos by STEPHANIE FOX
At too many places in the city—farmer’s markets, restaurants, playhouses—dogs are not welcome. Not so at Bark!Art, a dog-centered festival in the East Nokomis neighborhood where dog-focused businesses, dog owners and dogs came together for two hot afternoons (Sept. 15-16) of shared fun.

The festival was created by Off-Leash Area, an East Nokomis based theater and dance group that a few years ago saw a need for a place for innovative theater, and saw dog frolic and leash-free dog parks as a metaphor for imaginative theater performances.

Photo right: Gigi showed up at Bark!Art for an afternoon of fun.

The brick and mortar theater, Art Box, is Off-Leash Area’s rehearsal and performance space, located at 4200 E. 54th St. For years, the building was vacant, but was purchased by Off-Leash Area and is now a place where small performance companies and artists can find a location for practice, productions, and classes.

It was also the perfect place for a late summer neighborhood festival.

Photo left: Dog-centered businesses, from the dog, treats to dog toys and dog training, set up tents to greet dog owners.

Many East Nokomis neighbors showed up with their dogs, but people came as far as Burnsville to share the day with their canine friends. This is Bark!Art’s first year and putting it together was a challenge said Paul Herwig, one of the organizers. Sponsors included Oxendale’s Market and the Canine Coach.

Part of the fun, Herwig said, was a play featuring a live and on stage canine actor Lily, owned by Herwig. Herwig engaged Canine Coach to train Lily for her part. “It was a bonding experience for us and our dog,” he said.

Photo right: Dog trainer and Bark!Art sponsor Jess Kittredge with her dog, Professor Chaos. She is the Canine Coach who worked with the dog performing in the play “Paws and Effect.”

In addition to the canine actor, the group had a unique and innovative idea. “Dogs were invited into the theater to see the show,” Herwig said. “It’s something specific to this festival and a lot of fun.”

And, this time, dogs were also welcome to be part of the audience. About a dozen dogs came with their owners at Sunday’s performance, to share seats and watch the play.

Photo left: Dogs love the theater, along with their owners.

The play, “Paws and Effect,” is a story of a young misunderstood New York school girl who runs away from home, to Central Park, where she meets a magical dog who teaches her to accept people—including herself—for who they are. The play was written, directed and starred Jennifer Ilse, who along with set designer Herwig, runs Off-Leash Area.

This year’s Bark!Art was fantastic,” said Herwig. “We are a small nonprofit with limited staff and resources. It was a community project that fits the neighborhood.”

Photo right: Off-Leash Area, a contemporary dance and theater company, was one of the sponsors of this years first Bark!Art.

“The only time where there was any commotion from the dogs in the audience was when our neighbor’s dog recognized Lily on stage. As soon as she came on stage they locked eyes,” he said. The two dogs are close friends since puppyhood. “Having dogs in the audience was super fun.”

Herwig hopes that this small festival will become an annual event and will continue to attract people and their dogs, for years into the future.






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NENA News October 2018

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

Gateway Garden library event scheduled Sept. 29
Celebrate the turning of the seasons with this outdoor library event at Gateway Garden, 4224 E. 50th St. On Sat., Sept. 29, starting at 11am until 1pm, Tour the Gateway Gardens native plant community garden and enjoy an outdoor story time! The Nokomis Library will have a pop-up library available, with a place for sharing books, playing, and exploring the natural world.

You’ll learn about the Library’s innovative new programs connecting youth and adults alike to the natural world outside our doorsteps. Families will also learn about the history of the Gateway Garden and how they can get involved.

Morris Park Fall Festival
Save the date for the Morris Park Fall Festival on Sat., Sept. 29, 12-2pm at Morris Park, 5531 39th Ave. S.! This free family event will include a wide variety of activities, including building/flying kites, giant yard games, Minneapolis Park Board Naturalist activities, and music. The fire pit will be set up with s’mores making for all attendees. Food for sale will include chili, chips, hot cider, hot cocoa, and water.

Legos at the library
Are you up to the Lego challenge? Come to Legos at the Nokomis Library, 5100 S. 34th Ave., on Thur., Oct. 18, 6:30-7:30pm and find out. Nokomis East adults, find your inner kid (or your inner city planner) with the Housing, Commercial, and Streetscape Committee. Build the best neighborhood building with Legos and win a prize! Then, hang out with the HCS Committee and learn about upcoming projects.

Accepting applicants
NENA is seeking applicants for the vacant Board seat from the Minnehaha neighborhood. If you live (homeowner and renters) in the Minnehaha neighborhood, you can nominate yourself (most common); or any NENA member can nominate a Morris Park neighborhood resident as an applicant for the Board. Completed nomination forms are due on Oct. 11.

The NENA Board of Directors will review all applications and appoint a new Board member at its Oct. 25 meeting. This is a replacement appointment serving from Oct. 2018 to Apr. 2020. The appointed Board member may run to be elected to the seat at the April Annual Meeting and serve a full two-year term.

Visit for more information and an application.

NENA home loans
NENA offers two home improvement loan programs for homes in the Keewaydin, Minnehaha, Morris Park and Wenonah neighborhoods. Loan applications are processed on a first come, first served basis.

Home Improvement Loans
Did you know that the NENA Home Improvement Loans also cover large energy efficiency home improvements like solar panels? These loans also cover most permanent home improvements. Call the Center for Energy and Environment at 612-335-5884 for more details on project eligibility. Owners of one to four unit residences can apply for up to $15,000 to make improvements to their properties. Owner-occupants and investors may apply. The interest rate is either 3.5% or 4.5% depending on income. No income restriction applies.

Emergency Repair Loans
A limited amount of funds are available for emergency repairs. Only owner-occupied households are eligible. Income restrictions apply. The maximum loan amount is $7,500. The loan is 0% interest, and there are no monthly payments. The loan is due in total upon the sale of the property or transfer of title.

For more information or to request an application, call the Center for Energy and Environment at 612-335-5884.

Your guide to news, events, and resources! Get your neighborhood news delivered to your inbox every other Wednesday. Sign up today at Once you sign up, you’ll receive updates on news and happenings for your neighborhood.

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Local Art Studio focuses on resilience against oppression through art

Posted on 27 August 2018 by calvin

The storefront at 3260 Minnehaha Ave. has been home to artist Ricardo Levins Morales and his four-person staff since January. Sandwiched neatly between Peace Coffee and Two Betty’s Cleaning Service, the art studio and shop welcomes visitors to the neighborhood.

Photo right: Artist Ricardo Levins Morales said, “I was born into a farming family on a mountain in Puerto Rico. Nothing in my life blinked, beeped, or had a pause button. From that, I learned a certain kind of patience—and to speak of the world through a narrative of abundance. When people are behaving in ways that are harmful to others, it almost always comes down to a perception of scarcity.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Levins Morales said, “Somebody stopping in for the first time might be surprised to see posters, cards, buttons, bumper stickers, and calendars for sale that address a lot of different political issues. I’ve been asked, ‘How can I delve into so many issues in my art?’ I say, ‘For me, there is only one issue that runs through everything I do: building resilience in the face of oppression.’”

The artist experienced oppression first-hand in Puerto Rico, the country of his birth. He lived there with his activist parents until he was 11. When they left the island in 1967, the anti-colonial movement was very strong. His parents chose to re-settle in Chicago. Their family life was tough though, and Levins Morales ended up living on his own from the age of 15. He didn’t finish high school and began immersing himself in the mass political movements of the time.

“The movements I got drawn into were about restoring power to people whose power had been taken away,” Levins Morales reflected. “My first published piece of art was a flyer I drew for the Chicago Black Panthers when I was just a teenager. I have always made art about what’s important to me. When I was five, I drew chickens. When I was eight, it was pirates. For all the years that have followed, it’s been about art as a process of truth-telling. It only becomes political when you’re in an environment that’s full of lies.”

While Levins Morales never got a traditional art education, he said, ”Growing up in Chicago, I was surrounded by art in the form of posters, murals, and newspaper cartoons. When I saw a style that I loved, I would try to figure out how to do it, and to absorb the artist’s techniques.”

He started out working in linoleum and woodblock printing, eventually teaching himself silk screen printing and, about 25 years ago, got interested in a medium called scratchboard. To make his images, Morales scratches through an ink coated surface to reveal a contrasting layer of white clay underneath. To complete the colorful, vibrant process that is his signature style, Levins Morales colorizes the scratchboard with watercolor, and can digitize his images for in-studio printing.

In much the same way, Levins Morales helps communities to scratch through the surfaces of a struggle—and get to what can heal them. “The art I make is meant to stimulate people’s emotional immune systems, to help them deal with the toxicity of our culture,” he said. “The process of working with groups doesn’t vary all that much. People come into the studio; they talk, and I listen. Together we try to find what’s encouraging in a difficult situation, what’s hopeful. A lot of what I do with my art is to re-frame narratives for communities that have been traumatized. It doesn’t mean that the art itself is telling horrific stories. Even in times of struggle, people need to laugh, and to look at beautiful things.”

The new space on Minnehaha Ave. has room for art making, sales, and community gatherings. “We feel more visible here,” Levins Morales said. “We’re easier to find, and it’s a good place for us to disseminate the art. We’ve had several high school and college art classes come to visit, youth groups, seminary students, students of Latin American history and culture, and student organizations. This shop is intended to be a reservoir of resilience in times of trouble. Everyone is welcome.”


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Share the Gorge 2018 celebrates the urban wilderness

Posted on 27 August 2018 by calvin

This year’s Share the Gorge began under parting storm clouds on July 25. The annual ice cream social and community gathering celebrates the Mississippi River Gorge, with its easy access to the urban wilderness in the heart of the city. Share the Gorge is hosted by the River Gorge Committee of the Longfellow Community Council.

Photo right: Michaela Neu (right) is the Youth and Community Outreach Specialist for the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization. Among other resource materials, she passed out copies of the newly published “Good Neighbor Guide” which addresses responsible water stewardship practices for homeowners. At left is Marya Macintosh, River Gorge Committee member. The committee always welcomes new members and meets the first Wednesday of each month from 7:30-9pm at the Longfellow Recreation Center.

Photo left: Hennepin County Forestry staff Jen Kullgren (left) and Shane De Groy had three words of advice for homeowners, “Don’t plant maples!” Kullgren said, “The Asian Longhorn Beetle isn’t knocking on our door yet, but it’s likely coming—and its preferred food source is maples. The best thing we can do for our urban forest is to diversify our tree planting choices.”






Photo right: Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) was on hand with resource information. The organization is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and the 10th anniversary of its popular Gorge Stewards volunteer program. For more information about volunteering, contact Amy Kilgore at






Photo left: Once again, the East Lake Dairy Queen donated boxes of Dilly Bars to the Share the Gorge event. Thanks to owner Jim Lee for his generosity.








Photo right: Lyndon Torstenson of the National Park Service steadied a boat as it prepared to launch.




Photo left: Paddlers of all ages and experience levels were welcome to paddle the Voyageur canoes provided by Wilderness Inquiry.

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Hiawatha Academies

Chanhassen Dinner Theater

Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly