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District 10 recommends approval of variances for TCGIS expansion

Posted on 13 January 2019 by Calvin

Board stressed they were not taking a position for or against historic preservation or value of former church building

District 10 Board members debate three variance requests from the Twin Cities German Immersion School who hopes to demolish the existing St. Andrew’s church building and construct an addition there. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
District 10 Board members have approved three variance requests for the Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) expansion project, but the board has not taken a position for or against historic designation of the former St. Andrew’s Church building that is at the center of this divisive neighborhood issue.

Photo right: On Dec. 18, 2018, District 10 Board members (left to right) Amy Perna (Vice Chair), Ryan Flynn (Chair), Anne Hartmann (treasurer) and Tim Post (secretary) consider three variance requests from the Twin Cities German Immersion School. Representatives from the school and Save Historic Saint Andrews spoke at the meeting. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Before receiving official city approval, projects must go before their local district councils. In the Como area, the process for building projects is that they first go before the Land Use Committee, which is composed of however many neighborhood residents attend each meeting, and then the 17-member District 10 Board.

District council votes are advisory, and the city council is not required to go along with the recommendations.

While the approval process for the proposed school addition progresses on one track, the possible historic designation of the former St. Andrew’s Church building moves on another.

The city’s Preservation Commission ruled on Nov. 5, 2018, that the former church designed by the city’s first architect, Charles A. Hausler, is eligible for historic status. However, on Dec. 14, the city’s Planning Commission voted against it being eligible using a different set of criteria. The Heritage Preservation Commission held a public hearing on Jan. 14, past this Monitor’s deadline.

Variance 1: height
Charter schools often make do with spaces, observed TCGIS Executive Director Ted Anderson during the Dec. 18, 2018 District 10 Board meeting. “One of the biggest reasons that we’re motivated to build in this space is that we really want to have usable space for our kids.”

“We’ve seriously looked at how we can keep this building,” said board member and neighborhood resident Nic Ludwig. “We spent two months looking at that before we looked at other options.”

The proposed addition following the demolition of the former St. Andrew’s Church would have a cafeteria on the main level and an expanded commons area adjacent to the addition TCGIS built in 2013 when it moved to the site. Floor two would have six classrooms and RTI (response to interventions) space to provide individualized education.

In the lower floor would be two gymnasiums.

The proposed structure would be a bit wider and shorter than the existing church building.

However, it would be slightly taller than what is allowed by city code, so TCGIS is requesting a variance to the height of 3.1 feet for a total height of 33.1 feet. The existing church building is taller than what is now allowed by the city code. At the peak of the church roof, the current building is 47 feet tall, and it is 38 feet, 6 inches at the midpoint of the roof, according to a St. Paul staff report.

Photo right: District 10 Board member and Land Use Committee Chair Maggie Zimmerman presents highlights from the recent Land Use Committee meeting regarding the Twin Cities German Immersion School’s variance requests during a board meeting on Dec. 18. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

At the District 10 Land Use Committee meeting on Dec. 5, people had voted 96-76 to granting the variance. Land Use Committee members include anyone age 18 or older who resides in geographic boundaries of District 10; or anyone who is a designated representative of a business or nonprofit organization physically located within District 10.

Of the 230 people at the meeting, 187 were District 10 residents who could vote, according to Land Use Committee Chair Maggie Zimmerman. Of that, 60% were from subdistrict 2 (which includes Warrendale), 15% from subdistrict 1, 17% from subdistrict 4, and 8% from subdistrict 3.

Following the recommendation of its Land Use Committee, the District 10 Board voted 14-1 on Dec. 18 to support the variance request for height. Zimmerman and chair Ryan Flynn abstained from all the votes. St. Paul staff is also recommending approval of this variance.

Board position on historic designation
Vice Chair Amy Perna proposed an amendment to the first two motions that they be contingent upon the application for historical designation being denied.

“I think we have two processes going on and if the historic preservation goes through that changes the landscape,” explained Perna.
This amendment was not added following two 7-8 votes as the majority of board members felt that the issue would need to return to them if the historical designation moved forward.

Chair Ryan Flynn affirmed that support for the variance requests “is not an opposition to the historic designation.” He added, “The board has not taken a position on historic designation.”

Variance 2: lot coverage
The second variance request would allow TCGIS to have a total lot coverage of 36%, 1% more than the city’s allowable amount in an R4 residential district. Right now, the former St. Andrew’s Church occupies 32% of the site.

The Land Use Committee approved this by a 100-74 vote.

District 10 Board members approved 14-1 with two abstentions. St. Paul staff is also recommending approval of this variance.
Kevin Anderson of Save Historic St. Andrews (SHSA), the group pushing for preservation, argued that in the city’s zoning ordinance, there is language preventing the overcrowding of land and undue congestion of population. He pointed out that of the elementary schools in St. Paul, TCGIS is the highest in density. TCGIS has 375.1 students per acre while the next closest schools, Achieve Language Academy, has 270.5 students per acre, Murray Middle has 188.1 students per acre, and St. Paul Music Academy has 176.4 students per acre. SHSA believes the density puts a strain on the site and neighborhood streets.

Variance 3: parking
The last variance request generated the most discussion by the District 10 Board.

TCGIS is asking the city to waive the requirement that it provide 37 additional parking spaces with the addition. The school’s current proposal accounts for just 50 parking spaces, but it anticipates having 87 full-time equivalent employees with the school expansion.

The school’s parking lot on the west side currently has 33 spaces, and it will lose one spot with the addition. TCGIS will also remove the six-space parking lot on the east side to create green space there for a net loss of seven parking spaces.

It has contracted with Mission Church across the street to use 15 spaces there when they’re not needed by the church, an agreement that expires in June 2019. The school will offset nine parking spaces by providing bike racks for 36 bikes. The remaining vehicles are expected to use on-street parking in the neighborhood or by staff using alternative forms of transportation.

Ludwig noted that the school plans to meet with the city about using the Como pool lot, but that will cost the school money.

School representatives and those from Save Historic St. Andrews presented conflicting traffic and parking data during the meeting, with one side stating there was plenty of parking spaces available during school hours and the other stating there wasn’t. Each had photos to illustrate their point. The majority of TCGIS school students do come from outside the neighborhood and either ride the bus to school or come by vehicle. Of the 560 students, 55 live in District 10 and half in St. Paul, according to T. Anderson.

A traffic study is currently being done by TCGIS using measures set by the city.

At the Land Use Committee meeting, the school asked for a variance of 37 spaces. Before the District 10 board meeting, the city recommended a variance of only 29 spaces with no net loss in on-site parking.

During its vote, District 10 Board members agreed to follow through on the Land Use Committee vote (101-76) and approved a variance of 37 parking spaces on an 8-7 vote with two abstaining.

Those in favor of the motion explained that they supported more green space over parking. “I’m concerned about the message we’re sending to prioritize a parking lot,” said board member Laura Jo Busian.

Those opposed were concerned about shifting the burden of parking to neighborhood streets. “I think it does have the biggest impact on the neighborhood,” said board member Olivia Mulvey Morawiecki.

A neighborhood divided
School representatives stated that they don’t think they can keep the school financially stable and cover the costs of keeping the church as a historic building. “Will that make us leave tomorrow? No, but it will be a drain on our budget,” said T. Anderson.
They do not think the city should designate the former church as a historic site over their objections.

Save Historic Saint Andrews (SHSA) member Anna Moser pointed out that neighbors banded together to save the historic Victoria Theater at 825 University Ave. in Frogtown when the property owner wanted to tear it own. The structure was granted historic preservation status and is in the middle of a renovation project.

District 10 Board member Mike Ireland observed, “Since I started on the board there have been issues with the community and the school. It’s been exacerbated since the demolition came up. At some point, one side is going to walk away happy and one very sad.” He expressed his concern about the division he sees and asked how the school and community were going to come together after this.
On behalf of the school, Ludwig stated that TCGIS will continue to host neighborhood events such as National Night Out.
SHSA representative K. Anderson said that it is important to be respectful of each other in this process.

“I respect and understand that the school is an important part of our community, but I want it to be a positive part of the community,” stated Moser.

SHSA has requested data from the school to facilitate a design meeting this winter in which all stakeholders in the project would attempt to resolve the conflict and preserve the historic church structure.

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Western District Police Department seeks community connections

Posted on 13 January 2019 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The Western District is the largest of the three police districts in St. Paul. With headquarters at 389 Hamline Ave. N., it is home to 120 police officers, sergeants, commanders, and civilian employees. ]

The senior commander is Steve Anderson, a 29-year veteran of the police force who was born and raised near Hamline and Edmund avenues. “The formula we use is 40% community engagement and 60% enforcement. There is no way we could be successful in our police work without the help of the community,” Anderson said.

Photo right: Senior commander Steve Anderson recommends starting or joining a Block Club as a way to build community and reduce crime. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Anderson was appointed to his position in 2017, the same year that criminal activity in and around Hamline Park was becoming a serious problem. A former Hamline Recreation Program kid himself, he decided to increase the police presence there on bicycles—not just in squad cars. “We bolstered our beat officers on bikes from two to six, and those are full-time positions,” he said. “The officers were able to interact with kids and identify those who were at risk for, or already were, committing crimes. The incidence of assaults quickly declined and has stayed down.”

“There are a lot of demands on beat officers,” he said, “because they’re responsible for everything that happens in their assigned grid. It’s usually just a few people who are causing problems in a neighborhood. The beat officers are tasked with getting to know families and neighbors, making face-to-face connections with the community they serve. We try to gain people’s trust. Once the beat officers learned which families had kids involved in criminal activity at Hamline Park, our community engagement unit, gang unit, and social services work with the parents to try and steer their kids in a better direction.”

The Western District covers a sprawling area: extending roughly from the Minneapolis border on the west, 35E on the east, W. 7th St. on the south, and Larpenteur Ave. on the north.

Every third Tuesday, community meetings are held at police headquarters at 9:30am and 6:30pm. The Jan. 15th meetings provided an overview of 2018, as well as a year-end police report.

Attendance runs consistently high at these meetings. There are often guest speakers on issues that relate to policing, such as the use of force and new technologies like body cameras.

In addition, the St. Paul Police Department has a monthly get-together called Coffee with a Cop. Each of the three districts takes turns hosting, and all three senior commanding officers attend each month, as well as a handful of officers. The next scheduled gathering in the Western District is Feb. 26 from 9-11am at the White Castle at Lexington and University avenues. In a time when police/ community relationships can feel strained, this is an excellent opportunity to get to know each other better in an informal setting.

Like every police force in the country, the Western District is in need of more persons of color (especially women) interested in becoming officers. The St. Paul Police Department has launched the Law Enforcement Career Path Academy to ensure that young adults who want to serve as peace officers have the resources they need to succeed. Participation is aimed at adults between the ages of 18 to 24, who live in or around St. Paul, come from low-income families, or face barriers to employment. Call the Community Engagement Office at 651-266-5485 to learn more.

According to Anderson, the biggest problem facing police right now is the connection between violence, gangs, and social media. “Over 50% of our gang-related incidents are a reaction to social media posts,” he said. “Real or perceived slights provoke violence over and over again. Officers respond to these incidents, but they’re extremely hard to get ahead of because they happen so quickly.”

What can citizens do? According to Anderson, “If you see something, report it—but just give the dispatcher the facts. Similarly, if you make a social media post about something you saw—try to keep your opinions to yourself.”

To report a crime, call 911. For a non-emergency anywhere in St. Paul, call 651-291-1111. If you’re unsure which number to call, opt for 911.

Text-to-911 is now available throughout Minnesota, but should only be used when a person can’t safely make a voice call. Text-to-911 is a discreet way to report domestic violence, home invasion, human trafficking, or someone who appears at risk for suicide. Enter 911 in the “TO” field, then text your exact location and type of emergency. Text-to-911 has a 160 character limit, and there is no language translation available at this time.

“I’ve been a police officer for almost three decades,” Anderson said, “and I’ve only been involved in one exchange where shots were fired. Contrary to what people see on TV, flying bullets are not a daily thing for front line officers—though the possibility is always there. We are working hard to deter crime, to keep it from happening. I’m proud to say that in the Western District, we had a 22% reduction in shots fired in 2018. It’s impressive how many positive things a street cop does every day. This is the norm for most cops.”

Contact administrative assistant Olivia Scullark at 651-266-5423 with any questions about the St. Paul Police Department’s Western District.

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Mortenson Construction builds stadium as a good neighbor should

Mortenson Construction builds stadium as a good neighbor should

Posted on 13 January 2019 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Mortenson Construction has a long, impressive resume, and you don’t have to travel very far in the Twin Cities to see one of their projects. Their crews built the recent restoration of Orchestra Hall, the Walker Art Center addition, major projects at the Minnesota Zoo, US Bank Stadium, the Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum, and many others. Their latest project, which will take 20 months from start to finish, is Allianz Field in the Midway neighborhood. According to project supervisor Greg Huber, “Things are moving along right on time.”

Photo right: Greg Huber, Mortenson Construction supervisor for Allianz Field, said, “To me, the most exciting thing is this. Yes, we’ve built a new stadium, but we’ve also improved the site for the community in so many ways.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Constructing a major league soccer stadium at the busiest intersection in the state has had its logistical challenges. Huber said, “We started with a really good plan and, because of that, the project has gone well. We came in with a solid understanding of the site, complexities and all. Community impact means a lot to us; that piece has to work for the project to be successful.”

Huber explained, “In the beginning, we had to dig a really big hole. We were hauling about 6,000 cubic yards (56,000 cubic feet) of soil and debris off the site daily, and bringing in huge deliveries of structural steel and other building materials. Because Snelling and University avenues are already so busy, we didn’t want to add to the congestion. We used Pascal St. instead, to provide as little disruption to the neighborhood as possible. We had a few neighbors come to our construction office in the beginning, worried about how long certain noise levels would last. Thankfully, the worst of it, like the pile driving, only took a couple of weeks.”

Mortenson Construction has made communication with existing tenants of the Super Block a priority throughout the process.

According to Huber, “Site supervisor Scott Amudson is the one with boots on the ground every day, making sure we’re in touch with the needs of the tenants at RK Midway. For example, we built the stadium from south to north, so that the tenants who had to move could stay in place as long as possible. It would have been easier for us to work in the opposite direction.”

Construction is slated to be done on Feb. 22, 2019, with the first Minnesota United FC soccer game scheduled for mid-April. Once the construction fence comes down, Huber anticipates that the public will be pleasantly surprised. “The soccer club didn’t have to go to the lengths they did with landscaping and other community amenities to get approval for this project,” he said. “Regarding the trees, there was literally no tree cover on this site before. Nearly 200 dormant trees were planted this fall, and they’re not just little saplings: the trees have trunks with a 6-8” diameter, which is unusual for a new planting. We believe we’re creating a better sense of place here by putting in community green space.”

Other amenities will include on-site benches made with granite from Cold Spring MN and a public walkway on the south side of the Super Block that connects Snelling Ave. to Pascal St.

One of the mottos at Mortenson Construction is, “Finish safe, finish strong.” Huber explained, “We have over 580,000 worker hours logged on this project so far, and we’ll have 650,000 by the time it’s done. That translates as a lot of meaningful employment to a lot of people—many of whom are local. We also believe that businesses of all sizes in this neighborhood will benefit from the transformation of the Super Block. There will be a big uptick in foot traffic.”

When Allianz won naming rights to the new stadium, they added it to their list of branded stadiums in Munich, London, Sao Paulo, Vienna, Nice, Turin, and Sydney. That will make St. Paul something of an international destination, as there are presently more people outside the US that enjoy soccer than there are in.

Huber concluded, “We believe this will be an iconic structure for decades to come.”

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Unique collaboration is a win-win for St. Anthony Park Home

Unique collaboration is a win-win for St. Anthony Park Home

Posted on 13 January 2019 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
When Elizabeth Clement was growing up in British Guyana, she never thought she would be able to go to college. “I immigrated to Minnesota in 2014,” she said, “and was surprised to learn that college would be possible for me here. In Guyana, only the very wealthy have that opportunity. My first step was to enroll in the Nursing Assistant Training at the International Institute of Minnesota, where I developed a set of practical skills. I completed their eight-week program four years ago, and got a job right away.”

Photo right: Elizabeth Clement is well on her way to fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a registered nurse. She said, “It’s simple; this is what I’m good at.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Clement was hired by the St. Anthony Park Home, just a mile up Como Ave. from the International Institute. It is a privately owned and operated skilled nursing facility that provides long and short term care, rehabilitation, respite care, and hospice services. While Clement continues to develop her skill set there as a nursing assistant, she is also working toward a BS degree as a registered nurse at St. Paul College. She is determined to make her childhood dream of becoming a nurse a reality.

Mona Salazar is the director of nursing at the St. Anthony Park Home. She said, “It is just that sort of determination that develops excellent employees. Since the International Institute approached us about forming a partnership in 2002, we’ve hired well over a hundred of their nursing assistants. The first group of graduates that we hired struggled with English, so the International Institute came on-site to our facility to offer extra language classes (at no charge) including conversational English, medical terminology, and phrases that were frequently used with patients. We paid the nursing assistants for the time they spent studying, and their English quickly improved.”

“Entering the medical profession as a nursing assistant is a great way to get started,” Salazar said. “The International Institute offers its tuition-free training program to immigrants, and they gain practical experience here—as we are a clinical training site. Many of the students do their practicum at the St. Anthony Park Home: they learn to bathe patients, attend to basic needs, and check vital signs. Seven of our current nursing staff started as nursing assistants, and are now either licensed practical nurses or registered nurses.”
Salazar explained, “Employees and residents comment that this facility has a home-like feel. I’m very proud of our ethnically rich staff.

Photo right: Youa Xiong went through nursing assistant training in 2010 and has worked at the St. Anthony Park Home ever since. A native of Thailand, she now lives in the Como neighborhood with her family and became a licensed practical nurse in 2013. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Most of them have had to overcome significant obstacles to finish their educations, to work on their English skills, and to learn to understand our American culture. We’ve had nursing assistants come to work with us from Myanmar, Thailand, East and West Africa—almost every country you could imagine. Wherever they come from, it seems that they’re used to caring for multiple generations in their home countries. They are natural caregivers, and we’ve all learned from that.”

Residents at St. Anthony Park Home have benefited culturally from the diversity of the nursing assistants too. According to Salazar, there have been many ethnic song and dance performances over the years, shared meals from the traditions of other countries, and even a lesson by Ethiopian nursing assistants on the proper preparation and serving of the world’s best coffee.

The St. Anthony Park Home was built as an orphanage more than 100 years ago. Located at 2237 Commonwealth Ave., just behind the Children’s Home Society, the facility transitioned into being a nursing home in the late 1950s. It’s been owned by the same person for 27 years, and most of the department heads have been in their jobs for more than two decades. The 84 bed, three-story facility is very much part of the neighborhood.

For more information about the Nursing Assistant Training at the International Institute, contact Julie Garner-Pringle at 651-647-0191 (#314), or email jgarner-pringle@iimn.org. Students are required to pay $30 for a background check, $100 for the state Nursing Assistant certification test, and to provide their own uniform, but otherwise there is no cost.

 

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2019 annual Fireside Reading Series line-up announced

2019 annual Fireside Reading Series line-up announced

Posted on 13 January 2019 by Calvin

All photos submitted

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library will present the annual Fireside Reading Series, featuring six weeks of author readings, at 7pm on Wednesday evenings in January and February at the Hamline Midway Library, 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave. The program annually highlights the work of some of Minnesota’s finest writers who have published a new work in the previous year.

New this season, in addition to their presentations, Fireside authors will be asked to talk about what “home” means to them. The goal is to complement the citywide conversation happening this winter as part of Read Brave Saint Paul, an intergenerational reading program whose 2019 theme is housing. The Fireside events are free and open to the public. Patrons can enjoy coffee, cider, cookies, and book signings. American Sign Language interpretation will be provided for all six events.

Sarah Stonich, author of “Laurentian Divide,” will be the guest on Wed., Jan 23. The best-selling author of “Vacationland” returns to the remote town of Hatchet Inlet with a poignant portrayal of life on the edge in northern Minnesota border country. Stonich is also the author of the critically acclaimed novels “The Ice Chorus” and “These Granite Islands,” as well as “Fishing with RayAnne” (writing as Ava Finch) and her memoir, “Shelter.”

Wang Ping, author of “Life of Miracles along the Yangtze and Mississippi,” will speak on Wed., Jan. 30. In a memoir that spans two rivers, two continents, and two cultures, Wang Ping traces her journey from China to America through the stories of the people that carried her along her travels. Wang’s publications of poetry and prose include “Aching for Beauty,” “The Magic Whip,” and “The Last Communist Virgin,” winner of a Minnesota Book Award. She is professor of English at Macalester College.

Gary Eldon Peter will discuss his new title “Oranges” on Wed., Feb. 6. Winner of the 2016 New Rivers Press Many Voices Project competition in prose, this debut short story collection traverses the life of Michael Dolin, a gay man from the Midwest who must find his own confusing path to adulthood after a personal loss. Peter’s short stories have appeared in “Callisto,” “Water~Stone Review,” “Great River Review,” and other publications. He is a professor at the University of Minnesota.

Heid E. Erdrich and Gwen Westerman, “New Poets of Native Nations,” will be the guests on Wed., Feb. 13. Edited by Erdrich, this landmark anthology celebrates 21 poets of diverse ages, styles, languages, and tribal affiliations to present the extraordinary range and power of new Native poetry. Erdrich is Ojibwe and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. She is the author of five collections of poetry, including “Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media,” winner of a 2018 Minnesota Book Award. Westerman is an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She is the co-author of the Minnesota Book Award-winning “Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota” and a poetry collection, “Follow the Blackbirds.”

Martin Case will discuss his new title “The Relentless Business of Treaties: How Indigenous Land Became U.S. Property” on Wed., Feb. 20. The story of “western expansion” is a familiar one: U.S. government agents, through duplicity and force, persuaded Native Americans to sign treaties that gave away their rights to the land. But this framing, argues Case, hides a deeper story. Case is a freelance researcher and writer and was a key participant in the development of “Why Treaties Matter,” a collaboration of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the Minnesota Humanities Center, and the Smithsonian Institute.

To wrap up the series on Wed., Feb. 27, Karen Babine will discuss her book “All the Wild Hungers: A Season of Cooking and Cancer.” When her mother is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Babine can’t help but wonder: feed a fever, starve a cold, but what do we do for cancer? Generous and bittersweet, these essays chronicle one family’s experience of illness and a writer’s culinary attempt to make sense of the inexplicable. Babine is also the author of “Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life,” winner of a 2016 Minnesota Book Award.

The Fireside Reading Series is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. For more information on the series, visit www.thefriends.org/fireside.

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Debate on St. Andrew’s Church continues; City Council to decide fate

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Calvin

The Twin Cities German Immersion School is planning to tear down the former St. Andrew’s Church building and construct a new three-story structure with two gymnasiums, a cafeteria and classroom space. This drawing shows the south view from Oxford St. The plan is to use precast concrete panels with red brick inlay, while the metal panels above are the same color and pattern as the 2013 addition. The glazed blue brick between the cafeteria and the 2013 addition is intended to be a backdrop for an art installation. It could showcase work from either known public artists or from TCGIS students. (Photo provided)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Should the former St. Andrew’s Church building designed by St. Paul’s first city architect be saved or razed for a new school building?

The discussion has continued at some local meetings, including a St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission hearing and St. Paul Planning Commission meeting.

On Nov. 5, 2018, the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission determined that the former church building meets four of the possible seven criteria for preservation and voted 8-1 to forward the nomination to the St. Paul Planning Commission and Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office for review. (See related article on page 7)

Later that month, on Nov. 28, city staff recommended that the Comprehensive and Neighborhood Planning Committee recommend that the former church be preserved as a heritage preservation site, citing that the application conforms to the city’s comprehensive plan and policies.

However, some members of the committee disagreed, saying it was “their responsibility to take a broader look at whether other principles and policies in the comprehensive plan justify opposing historic designation. They also said commissioners should consider comprehensive plan topics such as education, neighborhood vitality and character, and the potential for designation leading to a different use, a vacant building, or other unintended outcomes.”(1)

On Nov. 30, the Planning Commission members put off making a recommendation and sent the issue back to the Comprehensive and Neighborhood Planning Committee to review the range of potential impacts heritage designation could have.

The committee revisited the issue on Dec. 12; the Planning Commission revisited the issue on Dec. 14 (both were after Monitor’s press date).

Save Historic Saint Andrew’s filed an extensive data practices request on Nov. 29, asking the school to provide details on expansion alternatives it considered that would relocate the school, otherwise not demolish the former church building, and reasons it is not pursuing those alternatives. The request also seeks a wide range of information on costs, decision-making, and communication.

At the request of the city, the school is conducting a study of traffic flow, parking, and pedestrian activity near the school.

Detailed and unique building
The imposing former church building that is about 70 feet by 107 feet is well known for its three towers. It cost about $150,000 to build circa 1927 and had a seating capacity of 810. The complex building features various bays, wings, towers, and roof forms. Resting on a raised basement, the building is clad in brown brick, in several dark tones, and trimmed with Bedford limestone.

The elaborate brickwork features various patterns including Flemish, American, running, basket weave, and herringbone bonds, as well as extensive brick corbelling. A broad intersecting-gable roof, with multi-colored ceramic tiles, covers the main body of the church. The building achieves a highly-polychromatic effect through the use of dark brick, light stone, and multi-colored tiles.

Photo left: St. Andrew’s design is unique in many ways, including the use of dark brick, light stone, and multi-colored tiles that contribute to a highly polychromatic effect. Larry Millett, local architectural historian, noted in the AIA Guide to the Architecture of the Twin Cities that St. Andrew’s Church is, “One of St. Paul’s best period revival churches” and “by virtue of the quality of design and its beautiful detailing, [it] certainly deserves a high rank.” (Photo provided)

The historic exterior integrity of St. Andrew’s Church is ranked good to very good.

Is a win-win possible?
TCGIS Board Secretary and Past Chair Kelly G. Laudon stated that the school will continue to challenge the historic designation and seek approval for its plan to build a new, purpose-built structure that will serve the needs of its students.

“TCGIS claims that the building can’t be reused, in spite of deep evidence to the contrary,” said nearby resident Bob Spaulding. “Churches across St. Paul are being used today for homes, schools, and non-profits.” He added, “There is a win-win possible, but all parties need to step up. This community is ready, but we’re still waiting for TCGIS.”

SHSA will next work with qualified architects to perform a design charette, an intensive design exploration which stakeholders work together and map out and find solutions. TCGIS has been invited to participate.

District 10 Committee approves variances
During a two-and-a-half hour-long meeting on Wed., Dec. 5, the District 10 Land Use Committee voted to approve three variances that the Twin Cities German Immersion School is seeking for its expansion.

There were over 200 people at the meeting. The committee recommended:
• One percent variance in lot coverage on a 100-74 vote. This will allow the school to increase its footprint to 36 percent of its property.
• 3-foot, 1-inch height variance on a 96-76 vote. This would allow the school addition to reach 33 feet, 1 inch. (The former St. Andrew’s Church is 47 feet at the peak of its roof, according to St. Paul staff report.)
• 37-space parking variance on a 101-76 vote. “The school’s site plan accounts for only 50 of the 87 off-street parking spaces that are required by code. The school anticipates 26 spaces in the existing west parking lot, 15 spaces that will be leased from Mission Orthodox Presbyterian Church across the street, and 9 spaces that will be offset by additional bicycle parking. The 37 spaces that are unaccounted for likely would be absorbed by street parking in the surrounding residential blocks, or by staff taking alternate forms of transportation.” (1)

These recommendations now go on Dec. 18 to the full District 10 board, which can accept, reject, or modify the recommendations. The board will forward its recommendations to the St. Paul Planning Commission’s Zoning Committee on Dec. 20. That committee’s recommendations go to the full Planning Commission on Dec. 28.

(1) This information is taken from the official website of District 10 Como Community Council.

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Women’s Drum Center beating the drums in their new space

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The Women’s Drum Center (WDC) was bursting at the seams a couple of years ago, so they traded in their 350 square foot studio in the Dow Building for one three times that size. Still located in the Dow Building at 2242 University Ave. W., the 20+-year-old non-profit organization now has all the room they need for classes, workshops, and equipment storage.

Bettie Seitzer is president of the WDC board, a member of the drumHeart Ensemble, and an enthusiastic instructor. “Historically, women were not allowed to drum in many parts of the world,” she said. “At WDC, we understand the transformative power of drumming for both individuals and groups. We support the nurturance of women’s talents as musicians, composers, teachers, and leaders.”

Photo right: Drummers practice on the West African Dundun Drum, which comes in small, medium, and large sizes. The three sizes produce different tones (which correspond to size) from high to low. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

While there are some co-ed opportunities for men and for families to drum together, the bulk of the classes offered at WDC are for women. Newcomers often share their music experiences in their first drumming class and, according to Seitzer, more than a few say something like, “I wanted to drum when I was in elementary school or junior high, but the music teacher handed me a flute instead.”

WDC strives to be a safe place for women and girls (12+) to start drumming, and to offer ongoing opportunities that explore female expressions of drumming.

An excellent place for new women students to start is the Beginner’s Class on Tuesdays from 6:30-7:30pm. No previous drumming or music experience is needed; owning a drum is not a prerequisite either. WDC has plenty to share! The class is taught by Seitzer, and the atmosphere is encouraging, educational, and fun. From 7:30-8:15pm, the more experienced drummers in the group stay for an advanced beginner class called “Women who Groove.”

Seitzer started drumming nine years ago, and it took just a few drum beats for her to know that she had found her instrument. She said, “I’m excited about the direction that WDC is headed right now. We’ve done a good job for years with our classes and with our work out in the community, and recently, we’re doing more to broaden the scope of our performances. I attended a West African drum and dance retreat in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania this fall, and talked with the staff there about the cultural appropriateness of non-Africans playing performing African drum music. Their response was, “You are welcome to play our music, but please tell the stories behind the songs too.”

The performance ensemble at WDC is called drumHeart, with the “H” capitalized to emphasize heart. Seitzer explained, “Authentic performance of this music features elements of drum, dance, and voice—and we approach all three with Heart.” The ensemble is made up of the center’s most experienced drummers, whose mission is to serve the community with world percussion music that nurtures and inspires. They are out and about in the Twin Cities almost every summer weekend, drumming, singing, dancing, and explaining where their eclectic music comes from. They bring their joy and spirit to energize walkers fundraising for organizations like the National Kidney Foundation, the Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, and many others. To inquire about hiring drumHeart for an event in 2019, email info@womensdrumcenter.net. The ensemble charges an honorarium to perform.

Drumming has many social and musical benefits, but did you know that it’s also good for your health?

“There’s verifiable research out there about the health benefits of drumming, especially for people over 40 years of age,” Seitzer said. “Several students have told me their sleep patterns improved, they had fewer chiropractic problems, and less depression since they started drumming.”

Part of the mission of WDC is to use drumming, percussion, and music to help participants find avenues to better heath and healing.

To view their class schedule, visit www.womensdrumcenter.org or call 651-206-7616 with questions.

 

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Mass Shooting Presentation slider

$300,000 awarded to research mass shootings in the U.S.

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Mass shootings—what causes them, and what can be done to prevent them? Dr. Jillian Peterson, associate professor at Hamline University in criminology and criminal justice, and Dr. James Densley, Metro State University associate professor in criminal justice, are creating a database to better understand these questions.

The Center for Justice and Law at Hamline University hosted an event for the researchers to present their findings on Nov. 9, called Pathways to Prevention. Peterson and Densley recently received a $300,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice to finance their ongoing research for the next two years.

Photo left: Dr. Jillian Peterson, Hamline University professor, said, “I’ve seen over and over again that the worse the crime, the worse the life story of the perpetrator.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The overflow audience, which contained several law enforcement officers, got a crash course in what is true, and what is not true, about mass shooters.

The modern American history of mass shootings officially began on August 1st, 1966, in Austin, TX. On that day, 25-year-old Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the university tower and began firing indiscriminately with multiple firearms. The attack lasted more than 90 minutes; 17 people were killed, and 31 were injured.

Densley explained, “The FBI defines a mass shooting this way, four or more people are killed by guns in a public place within 24 hours. By that definition, there have been seven mass shootings so far in 2018. Mass shootings are relatively rare, but ‘focusing’ events since they make up less than one half of one percent of all firearm deaths in the US annually.”

Contrary to how it feels, mass shootings are not happening more often, but they are becoming more deadly. From 1966 to the present, there have been 151 mass shootings in this country.

“This has been a difficult database to compile,” Peterson said, “but we believe that if you’re going to have data-driven conversations—you need to have data. The scope of our project is considerable, and there’s only one way that we could take it on: with the help of our Hamline students. We have 20 research associates who have worked long hours, and made invaluable contributions.”

The students have been tasked with coding known mass shooters based on 53 variables such as past trauma, family makeup, history of mental illness, and social media profiles. “The data are still being compiled,” Peterson explained,” but we have noticed two consistent characteristics: hopelessness, and a desire to achieve notoriety either in life or in death.”

The public assumes a lot about mass shooters. According to their research, 58% of mass shooters coded positive for mental illness (depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or other mental disorders). But, 50% of the US pop­u­lation would code positive for one of those factors. “Mental health doesn’t hang out there on its own. It’s a slow build over time, with other risk factors piling up. When there’s a lack of a healthy support system, and access to firearms, that’s when everything falls apart,” Peterson said.

Densley said, “Add social media to all that, and you’ve got a really different reality. Sites like Gab (described as a safe haven for neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right) reinforce violent ideas in an echo chamber. Social media can have a very negative contagion effect. It’s not uncommon for attackers to be making posts on social media while they’re shooting. Suddenly we’ve got a world where some people are performers, and some people are audience members—but everybody’s watching.”

So, what’s a country to do?

“Last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas was the catalyst for our project,” Peterson said. “We are trying to find ways to identify people who might turn into motivated shooters and strategies to prevent future attacks. Our first recommendation is that when an attack happens, the shooter should not be named. Focus media attention on acts of heroism instead.”

Peterson and Densley hope to complete their project by 2020 and begin sharing it with the public. Between now and then, they’re scheduling five interviews with living mass shooters who are incarcerated across the country. They plan to interview them face-to-face about what their lives were like growing up. They’ll also talk with family members and friends, to help them understand the support systems that mass shooters either had or didn’t have.

The topic of mass shootings is highly emotionally charged. In Minnesota, although a student is six times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be shot while at school, we spend $25 million annually on school safety measures. Several major retailers are now selling bulletproof backpacks for kids.

Peterson said, “We’re traumatizing a whole generation of students with lockdown drills and talk of active shooters. Why aren’t we also spending more money on crisis intervention skills?”

To learn more the Pathways to Prevention Project, go to www.theviolenceproject.org.

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Microsoft PowerPoint – Jennie Hausler

Meet St. Andrew’s Church designer Charles A. Hausler

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Calvin

Hausler was St. Paul’s first city architect and drew from a range of styles during a distinguished career

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
St. Andrew’s Church was designed by a prolific and creative architect known for his diverse range of styles and high-quality designs.

Charles A. Hausler (photo right at age 20 provided) was born in St. Paul and left an indelible imprint on the city he lived in for all but a few years of his life.

“He was a son of St. Paul,” observed his granddaughter Jennie Hausler, who resides in Miami, Fla. “A visionary ahead of his time.”

Decided to be an architect at age 16
Hausler grew up in the W. Seventh St. neighborhood, the son of a German immigrant. He attended Adams Elementary School, Mechanic Arts High School, and the St. Paul School of Fine Arts. As a boy, he pedaled newspapers.

At 16, he decided to become an architect and began an apprenticeship with Clarence H. Johnston of St. Paul. He then apprenticed with several other major architects in the region including Harry Wild Jones in Minneapolis and Louis Sullivan in Chicago.

His apprenticeship with Sullivan is particularly notable as Sullivan is considered the father of the modern skyscraper and he exerted an important influence on a group of architects who practiced in what became known as the Prairie style, according to a St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission staff report.

Hausler was drawn back to St. Paul from Chicago and began to practice first with Peter Linhoff and then William Alban. Alban and Hausler designed some notable buildings in St. Paul including St. Anthony Park Methodist Episcopal Church (1911-1912) and Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation (1913), both designed in the Gothic Revival style. The firm also designed the Prairie style Knox Presbyterian Church (1912-14).

In addition to being an architect, Hausler was also a structural engineer, pointed out his granddaughter, J. Hausler.

Named St. Paul’s first city architect at age 25
At just 25 years old, Hausler was appointed St. Paul’s first city architect (1914).

One of his initial assignments was to serve as the supervising architect for the James J. Hill Reference Library. He also wrote the city’s first building code. Later, as a senator, he appointed a council to revise the code and bring it up to modern standards.

During his tenure, numerous municipal facilities were designed in his office, including schools, branch libraries, fire stations, and park buildings.

Hausler designed the William L. Ames School (1915) and the Como Park Elementary School (1916), both classically inspired buildings. He also designed the Randolph Heights School (1916), which features elements from the Mission Revival style.

While her grandfather was a man of great humility who always shared praise with others, he was also “proud of what he did,” remarked J. Hausler. During a recent tour of St. Paul schools, J. Hausler looked for where her grandfather had signed his name on the buildings, including the cornerstone at Como Park Elementary and an alcove near the door at Randolph Heights Elementary.

Photo left: St. Paul’s first city architect, Charles A. Hausler, designed numerous churches and buildings in St. Paul during his distinguished career, including St. Andrew’s Church. He is shown here with his granddaughter, Jennie Hausler, who spoke about her grandfather’s contributions to the city of St. Paul and the Warrendale neighborhood during the Heritage Preservation Commission meeting on Nov. 5, 2018. (Photo provided)

Hausler designed three branch libraries for the city, St. Anthony Park, Arlington Hills, and Riverview. The three classically inspired buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He also designed the Mounds Park Pavilion (1916).

Every one of her grandfather’s designs were unique and innovative, observed J. Hausler.

In 1915, Hausler hired Clarence “Cap” Wigington as the office’s senior draftsman. Wigington was an African-American architect who grew up in Omaha, Neb. Today, Wigington is recognized as the nation’s first black municipal architect. Buildings he designed include the Harriet Island Pavilion, Roy Wilkins Auditorium, and Highland Park Tower. Hausler also appointed a second African American architect named William Godette in 1919.

Plus, her grandfather treated women well, and rather than seclude them to a corner, he welcomed them at the draftsmen table in the middle of the room, pointed out J. Hausler.

Senator 1922-1939
Even while he was employed as city architect, Hausler maintained a private practice. One of his partners was Percy Dwight Bentley, who along with Hausler was also a notable practitioner of the Prairie style. The partnership produced a number of finely crafted Prairie style residences in St. Paul including the Frank and Rosa Seifert House (1914) and the Albert Wunderlich House (1915). Hausler also designed his own house (1917) in the Prairie style.

Innovative features in one home included a dehumidifier and there was an early form of air conditioning in a funeral home he designed.

“He was a man who was way ahead of his time,” stated J. Hausler.

Her grandfather always had two jobs, J. Hausler observed. With his German heritage, “he came from a strong work ethic,” she said.

Hausler resigned from his position as city architect in 1922 when he was elected to the state legislature. He represented St. Paul in the Senate, starting as a progressive Republican and ending up as a member of the Farmer-Labor party. Hausler left the Minnesota Senate in 1939 to resume his career in architecture full-time and continued working into his 70s.

Important clients
The Catholic Church was a very important client for Hausler. He designed dozens of churches, schools, convents, and rectories for the Catholic Church, which are located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. His most notable designs include St. Boniface Church (1929) in Minneapolis, St. Joseph’s Church (1929) in Owatonna, and St. Mary’s Church (1930) in Hague, N.D., which is listed on the National Register and is referred to as “the jewel of the prairie.”

Stylistically, these later churches typically featured the Romanesque Revival style, rather than the Gothic style that was common for Hausler’s early church designs.
In 1929, Hausler designed the Minnesota Building in downtown St. Paul. The building is considered the first in the Twin Cities to employ the Art Deco style and is listed on the National Register. Hausler was always concerned about fire safety and pushed for the use of concrete materials at the Minnesota Building, stated J. Hausler.

Hausler also designed a new Art Deco style façade for the Minnesota Milk Company Building on University Ave., which is also listed on the National Register.

Hausler’s architectural practice extended far beyond St. Paul. He designed schools, churches, and commercial buildings throughout the region. According to H. Allen Brooks, who wrote “The Prairie School: Frank Lloyd Wright and His Midwest Contemporaries,” Hausler was “an excellent public relations man and was particularly persuasive with school boards.” He designed schools in Minnesota communities that included Tracy, Fulda, Farmington, Buhl, and Greenbush.

Designs as artwork
During his time in the legislature, Hausler continued to practice architecture, and it was during this time that St. Andrew’s Church was constructed in 1927. Hausler’s design for St. Andrew’s draws its inspiration from a variation of the Romanesque style that developed in southern France and northern Italy, which is characterized by complex designs and colorful ornament. At the time of its construction, the building was described as Byzantine, a style that preceded the Romanesque. Design elements in St. Andrew’s that reflect this style include the interior spatial arrangement in the form of a Greek cross and the interior groin vaults.

“As a structural engineer, he built this building to last,” stated his granddaughter J. Hausler.

He also factored in the characteristics of each community where he designed buildings, she pointed out, and St. Andrew’s was no exception. “If they want to demolish this church, I don’t think it’d be for the benefit of the community,” J. Hausler said.

Hausler didn’t do anything that was boilerplate. “This church is absolutely gorgeous,” said J. Hausler. “You could come back every day for a week, and you’d see something new. He surprises you.” She pointed to the six different types of brick used and the other whimsical components designed into the building.
“If you take a look at his other churches, this stands apart,” J. Hausler said. She added, “His architectural designs are artwork.”

Hausler died in St. Paul on July 12, 1971.

 

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Art Academy slider

Started with a belief that art is learned, just like reading or math

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Calvin

Como residents James Robinson and Sarah Howard celebrate the 25th anniversary of Art Academy

By JAN WILLMS
Any child can learn to draw or paint well.

With this thought in mind, Como neighborhood resident James Robinson started the Art Academy 25 years ago, with about 30 children in attendance during its first month.

Today, the art school has 400 students at its location at 651 Snelling Ave. S.

Robinson, a Chicago native, first came to the Twin Cities to study at Atelier Lack with its founder, Richard Lack.

“At that time, in 1990, there were not a lot of schools out there doing what Atelier Lack was doing, which was teaching academic drawing and impressionist painting concepts,” Robinson claimed. After attending classes at Atelier Lack, he was an instructor there but also started making plans for opening his own art school.

“I was after something different,” he recalled. “I felt when I was young I had been shortchanged in art instruction. I knew that I wanted to draw well, and most of the art classes for kids were craft-paced, so they were not fully addressing how to teach a young person how to draw.”

“I thought that in the past, not every apprentice could have been talented. Some of them were just average people who were studying to have a career, yet they all learned how to draw and paint well. But not everyone was a Leonardo or a Michelangelo,” Robinson continued.

He said that he started doing a lot of research on drawing and painting techniques dating back to the Renaissance. Then he started his school, the Art Academy, and began teaching kids how to draw.

“The idea was that everyone is talented; talent isn’t some God-given gift,” Robinson explained. “And if you think about it, it’s kind of the right idea for kids.”

Photo right: James Robinson (right) and partner in life, Sarah Howard, who is also his partner in operating the Art Academy. Their rescue dog Pavo is a fixture at the school every day. (Photo by Jan Willms)

According to Robinson, we believe kids can learn to do math and write well and do history and science. “We even think this extends to dance, for example. If your daughter takes a dance class, you think she will improve. But in the visual arts, it’s kind of a different thing, because we believe some people are talented and some are not, and I wanted to see if that was true.”

He started his school out of his house, and within six months it became obvious to him that any child can learn to draw or paint pretty well. “They just were not being taught,” Robinson said. He ended up getting a patent on his teaching methods.

Within a year, the school grew so much that he moved it out of his house and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary building on Summit Ave. For a while, he rented space at the Holy Spirit School. The Art Academy has been at its present location for the past six years.

The success of the students at the Art Academy, who have won numerous awards over the years, has proven Robinson’s theory to be true—any child can learn to draw or paint well.

Looking back to the school’s beginnings, he said the most challenging part was building a reputation. Another continuing challenge is the amount of time it takes to operate the school. “We used to think there would come the point when all of this would be easy, and the school would run itself,” Robinson said. “That has never happened. It is pretty demanding regarding time.”

But all that pales when it comes to appreciating the relationships that have developed over the years with the students. “We have kids that start classes at age 5 and continue until they leave for college,” Robinson stated. “We end up having these really wonderful relationships with these kids, and it it’s amazing seeing them grow up and what wonderful people they turn out to be.”

Robinson’s partner in life, Sarah Howard, is also his partner in operating the Art Academy. “I went back to school in the mid-80s,” Howard recalled, “and took classes at Atelier Lack, and Jim was teaching there.” She took classes from him, and after graduating joined him at his school four years ago.

The staff at the Art Academy consists of an additional 16 part-time teachers, all of whom are alumnae.

And then there is Pavo, the rescue dog who is at the school every day. “He is just great with the kids,” Robinson said. “When he comes in, it’s like some religious saint has entered. All the kids are trying to touch him.”

Classes are taught six days a week, with Friday the only day off. Students range in age from 5 to adults in their 90s., Robinson said. Although the school originally started out focusing only on children, it soon expanded to include adults, and today about 90 of the 400 students are adults.

Robinson said that with many of the adults, a sort of pattern emerges. They are around the age of 40 or older, and they call the school explaining that they had a passion for drawing and painting when they were younger, and then life got in the way. “They come in and want to know if they can still do it,” he said.

Regarding the younger students, Robinson said that every five years aesthetics with kids change. “It was Harry Potter and wizards five years ago. We had a group of girls interested in drawing dragons, and others want to draw unicorns. Then Japanese animation took off. We try to find teachers well versed in those areas,” he said.

A large number of students have gone on to win awards. “Over 150 Art Academy students have won prizes at the Minnesota State Fair,” Howard said. “One of our students, Fina Mooney, recently traveled to New York to attend her first group show at the celebrated Salmagundi Club. What makes this unique is that Fina, at age 13, is the youngest person in the world to win an award in the highly competitive Art Renewal Center’s International Salon Competition.”

Robinson cited another student, Molly Dekarski, who is preparing to go off to college to study art. “She put in the time, and little miracles started happening,” he said. “She really took to watercolors, and won all major prizes at the state fair, including the Compass Award, which is rarer than a grand prize.”

Howard said one of their current students, Selena, is from Islamabad, Pakistan. She was at an art conference and saw the woman next to her drawing. “Where did you learn to draw like that?” she asked. The woman replied, “St. Paul.”

Selena looked St. Paul up on a map and saw that it was a twin city to Minneapolis, where her uncle lived, according to Howard. “She moved to Minneapolis to stay with her uncle and attend classes here,” she noted.

Robinson said it is experiences and relationships like these that have enabled his school to continue operating for 25 years.

“Once you can get the students to understand they can draw well, their skill level goes straight up,” he commented. “They become so focused.”

As well as believing that any child or adult can learn to draw, the other core principle of the Art Academy is that art history matters. “If we’re going to be giving a figure class, we will research for months regarding how historically these were taught. That streamlines the teaching process.”

“We want people to leave here feeling like they really have a leap,” Robinson continued, “So we put in a lot of efforts behind the scenes to make that happen.”

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