Quilt brings city residents together

by Joe Carlson

About 250 residents of southeast Minneapolis blanketed East River Flats park Saturday in celebration, representing the different aspects of their communities much like a quilt of images on display.
The actual quilt, sewn to raise money and awareness for an arts program at Marcy Open School, will be displayed at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts this August as an example of positive community participation.
The institute “thought this (project) was just a really good idea and that other communities could use this as a model,” said Melissa Bean, co-chair of the quilt project.
Pieces of the quilt were displayed at the park celebration Saturday as part of a local get-together that followed a Mississippi River clean-up event earlier that morning. Residents of the Como, Marcy-Holmes and Prospect Park neighborhoods came together to show community links between the three neighborhoods.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new raised walkway south of the park, as well as the release of two red-tail hawks from the University Raptor Center brought cheers from the crowd.
Local residents also gathered around to see the quilt project, which has already raised more than $3,000 for the Marcy-Holmes magnet school. Parents sold sponsorship for the quilt’s 40 squares, which depict images ranging from local organizations to deceased family pets.
“I think it tells a story of the whole area,” said Violet Kerber, who is helping to sew the quilt squares.
Sue LaTendresse, who had a hand in organizing the quilt, said she enjoyed the sense of community that events like Saturday’s celebration accentuate.
“That’s why I wanted to live in the city,” said LaTendresse, because of the tight social networks between urban community members that are often missing in the suburbs.
“I can go to Rosedale four times in a row and not ever see anyone I know,” LaTendresse said.
But she did note that although there were familiar faces in the East River Flats crowd, there were also many new ones to meet because three different neighborhood organizations coordinated the event.
Susan Larson-Fleming, Prospect Park neighborhood association president, said collaboration between the three organizations is becoming more common. In fact, the three local group leaders meet so often they’ve come to be known informally as “the coalition.”
“We talk about issues that affect the three neighborhoods,” Larson-Fleming said. “All of a sudden, there’s about 20,000 people who we represent collectively.”
It is through events like Saturday’s that let the populations of those communities come together. And they do it on public park land.
“It shows the park symbolically and physically bringing people together,” said George Puzak, a representative for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Local parks “are touchstones for people in the community to come together and play or relax.”
Also, large numbers of people were able to visit the shoreline of the river for recreation, which further strengthened bonds between community members. These events also reinforce residents’ bonds with the river itself.
Currently, Puzak said, a large-scale effort is underway to reclaim the shorelines of the river for recreational use, and organizations such as the park board are promoting and supporting that effort by encouraging river events.