|ANNOUNCER: This is Minnesota Native News, I’m Marie Rock. For the past year, the Minneapolis American Indian Center has been undergoing major renovations- Travis Zimmerman has the story.
Travis Zimmerman: Since 1975, the Minneapolis American Indian Center has been an iconic building in the heart of the American Indian urban community and is undergoing a much-needed transformation. Mary LaGarde, is the Executive Director of the Center.
Mary LeGarde: In 2013, myself, along with the Native American Community Development Institute, and CURA through the University of Minnesota, did a visioning process with the community. And so that was open to all community members, and just finding out from the community what they wanted the center to be. And then after that process, we went into strategic planning, with the board of directors and the staff of the Indian Center.
TZ: Sam Olbekson, Chair of the Board for the Minneapolis American Indian Center and design architect for the project, said the community played a critical role in the process.
Sam Olbekson: Well, what we wanted to do is create a vision with the community of what the heart of the Native community would want to be. We really wanted to modernize the facility. But that first came with community discussion. We had a number of different community engagement sessions where we brought in the community in different ways, either through direct design exercises, and charettes, and drawing and sketching, to surveys and to open houses to understand what the needs of the community were.
What we wanted to focus on was what are our shared values as an urban indigenous community? What are our common goals? And listen to the voices of what they need, how our programs can best service them. It’s really easy to come to a common goal of we want to serve our community the best way we can.
TZ: LeGuarde says the new Center will provide community work and meeting space as well as for programming and creative endeavors.
ML: The intent is that the first level really is designed for programs and services for our community. We have also moved our fitness center to the first floor. And so the fitness center will overlook the gymnasium. Our cafe, which is the gatherings cafe, is going to be right along Franklin Avenue. So that is part of the one-level expansion.
And then on the second floor, will be the office areas, along with the co working space, some meeting space areas, and an artist’s studio space that can be used by your Native artists that may be in need of use of a studio. It really is, it really is a huge space that is being created and it’ll be a space that can be utilized by others.
TZ: Obelkson assures that the mural on the outside of the Center by renowned Ojibwe artist George Morrsion will still be part of the exterior of the building.
SO: The mural had to be moved. But having it on the exterior of the building was really important so that it still was visible by the community. We actually sent it to Montana, each piece was restored, and then meticulously put back together on the facade, so it still remains an artwork that is for the community.
TZ: As a designer of the project, Obekson said the Minnesota American Indian Center renovation is truly a community effort for a community project.
SO: It was a group effort to vision and design, it was a group effort for the staff and community to think about what this place could be. And I see myself as a facilitator of those ideas. I really want people to feel that this is their facility, that they’re welcome, anytime. And to really come in see this as a way to build capacity in our community and celebrate us as a thriving urban indigenous community.
TZ: The Minneapolis American Indian Center is set to reopen on May 1st, for the opening of Minnesota American Indian Month. More information about this project is available at maicnet.org.
For Minnesota Native News, this is Travis Zimmerman.
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