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TCGIS postpones partial demolition of former St. Andrew’s Church

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

Save Historic St. Andrew’s holds forum to update community on ideas and plans to save the building

After picketing for several days, Save Historic St. Andrew’s supporters agreed to stop at the request of the Twin Cities German Immersion School and maintain a “fence of love” instead. (Photo submitted by Save Historic St. Andrews)

In October, partial demolition for St. Andrew’s historic church was slated by property owner Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS), but the plan was taken off the table after intense discussions with the Save Historic St. Andrew’s community group.

A forum to increase community awareness was held later that day on Thur., Oct. 11, and was attended by about 100 people. The event was held at the Mission Church across the street from historic St. Andrew’s (now called the Aula by TCGIS) but was not endorsed by the church.

‘No one imagined it would be threatened’
Save Historic Saint Andrew’s (SHSA) member Roy Neal was the first speaker of the evening and pointed out that his wife attended school at St. Andrew’s.

“Quite frankly, no one ever imagined that the Aula would be threatened with demolition,” Neal said.

He explained that the first goal of SHSA is to stop the demolition of the church, which the school voted to do on July 30 and replace the structure with a new, three-story building.

“What we’re asking for is collaboration,” stated Neal. “We want to see if we can come up with a win-win situation.”

According to Neal, the building is important to group members who feel that history matters. During the last 100 years, St. Andrew’s “has been the heart of the community in many ways,” he said. “It feels unthinkable to remove that from the community.”

Photo right: St. Andrew’s is significant for a number of reasons, according to architectural historian Rolf Anderson. The architect, Charles Hausler, is known for his high-quality designs and diversity of styles which had an important impact on the city. St. Andrew’s is also significant for its association with the “Hungarian immigrant experience. The broader impact of the church was demonstrated by the five new congregations that were created from the area served by St. Andrew’s Church,” wrote Anderson in his preliminary findings. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

He stressed that engagement matters and that SHSA hopes to engage the school to work together around a goal.
Neal observed that SHSA was concerned that the school planned to begin partial demolition of the church building just before the review of the structure by the Historic Preservation Commission, and finish the demolition in the summer of 2019. “We’ve seen that pattern before,” Neal said. He pointed out that partial demolition is a tactic used to deface a structure enough to undermine historical recognition and spite opposition.

SHSA members met with school staff, and TCGIS agreed to hold off and complete a full demolition next June as originally planned, he reported to applause in the room. “We think this will restore trust,” said Neal.

Stewards versus destroyers
TCGIS purchased the former St. Andrew’s Church structure in 2013 and completed an $8.3 renovation project that included the demolition of the rectory and rehabilitation of the Aula. “The demolition of the Aula was not included in the plan,” pointed out Neal, who added that the buildings on the property considered “classic” at the time by the school.

Community members learned in March 2018 that the school had been investigating options to increase their space for the past four years, and might destroy the Aula and build a new building in its place. In May, the school board held off on a vote to move forward with demolishing the former church sanctuary to investigate the purchase of the Central Lutheran School site nearby. In July, the school board voted to move forward with building a new structure.

“We don’t like the plan, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like TCGIS,” stressed Neal. “Just because we oppose the plan does not mean we don’t like kids either.”

However, the plan replaces the irreplaceable, he explained.

“We hope they can see themselves as a steward of the facility rather than a destroyer,” Neal said.

Photo left: Save Historic St. Andrews member Roy Neal observed that SHSA was concerned that the school planned to begin partial demolition of the church building just before the review of the structure by the Historic Preservation Commission, and finish the demolition in the summer of 2019. SHSA members met with school staff, and TCGIS agreed to hold off and complete a full demolition next June as originally planned, he reported to applause in the room. “We think this will restore trust,” said Neal. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Neal recognizes that the school intends to build an energy efficient structure, but pointed out, “It can take 80 years for a new energy-efficient building to overcome the impact created by its construction. The greenest building is the one that is already built.” According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 80 percent of Minnesota’s 1.6 tons of construction and demo waste ended up in a landfill in 2013.

Neal observed that the estimates for work on the existing building that were obtained by SHSA are significantly less than the ones shared by the school board’s building committee, and pointed out that the exterior is in good condition. According to SHSA, before the school took over the building, it cost $10,000 to maintain the roof each year, $2,500 to repair the brick and exterior, and about $4,000 to remove snow. “This doesn’t sound like a big burden to me,” said Neal. TCGIS has estimated building repairs and upgrades at $1.2 million.

SHSA is also concerned that TCGIS will outgrow the site and move to a larger space. “If they move, the consequences of this demolition won’t matter to TCGIS,” said Neal. “The neighborhood will have to live with the consequences.”

Neal encouraged school representatives not to be afraid of a historic preservation status. While there may be an extra step while doing projects, “it doesn’t stop respectful remodeling,” he said. “Preserving the building will be good for resale. Usually, preservation increases value. Historic properties bring value to the entire neighborhood.”

Eligible for historic status, funding?
A Go Fund Me campaign by SHSA raised money to fund a study of the former church building aimed at determining the building’s potential eligibility for historic preservation status.

Architectural historian Rolf Anderson pointed out that the church was built in a distinctive Romanesque Revival style inspired by churches in south France and Italy.

“The building is very complex and well-designed,” stated Anderson, “and among St. Paul’s most impressive neighborhood churches.”

He pointed out that there are seven distinct types of brickwork in the building. “It’s quite amazing just to look at the brickwork,” Anderson said.

The structure was designed by well-known architect Charles Hausler, who was St. Paul’s first city architect. He is known for his high-quality designs and diversity of styles which had an important impact on the city, stated Anderson.

St. Andrew’s is also significant for its association with the “Hungarian immigrant experience. The broader impact of the church was demonstrated by the five new congregations that were created from the area served by St. Andrew’s Church,” wrote Anderson in his preliminary findings.

The former church building is eligible for local designation under four of St. Paul’s Heritage Preservation criteria, and will be reviewed by the Heritage Preservation Commission. A public hearing was set for Nov. 5.

The District 10 Land Use Committee (composed of the community members who attend the meetings) and Board will also be voting for or against the TCGIS demolition and any variance requests before they are forwarded to the city council for consideration.

U OF M architect’s ideas
Minnesota Design Center Director Tom Fisher of the University of Minnesota reiterated that the greenest building is reusing the buildings one already has rather than tearing them down.

He pointed out that the TCGIS design for its new facility would replace the entrance of the church with the tall, blank wall of a gymnasium facing the street.

“They are turning their back on the neighborhood,” stated Fisher.

In his work, he looks for win-win solutions, and offered several suggestions at this site. Fisher began by asking what the school is trying to achieve and then trying to figure out how the school and community can both accomplish their goals.

He remarked that although the charter school views the old sanctuary as a challenge or deficit, it could instead be viewed as a desirable asset. He pointed out that schools today are moving from standard classrooms to large flexible spaces like this.

“The nave of the church is the kind of educational space a lot of schools are trying to build,” stated Fisher.

The Emily Program nearby recently kept a church building and dramatically changed the interior to meet their program needs.

He stated that charter schools still need to “be connected to and responsive to the community.”

Fisher suggested that TCGIS consider building an addition where the existing parking lot is, and observed that the coming autonomous vehicles will reduce the need for parking, a concept the design center is studying courtesy of a National Science Foundation Grant. Or, TCGIS could add another floor to the existing school wing.

“I think there’s a real opportunity here,” stated Fisher. “There are other options for you to meet your needs and still keep the church,” he told school representatives when he met with them. “I think there are ways to add to the facility without downsizing the church.”


TCGIS opposes historic designation

While the community group Save Historic St. Andrew’s is working to save the former church building, the charter school that occupies it is mobilizing against a historic designation.

Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) sent out an email blast asking supporters to send letters to the Historic Preservation Commission before its Nov. 5 public hearing.

In his letter to the commission, TCGIS Executive Director Ted Anderson pointed out, “The school is a model for successful charter schools in both cities.”

He added, “The non-profit school’s future is at stake if it is to be forced into maintaining an old building that is falling apart and is functionally obsolete.”

Anderson stated that TCGIS opposes the petition to designate the building as a historic site for a number of reason.

TCGIS does not think that historic designation should occur over the property owner’s objections—“Especially when the property owner is a non-profit entity such as a public charter school,” wrote Anderson.

“It is one thing when a for-profit entity is asked to use some of the profits that it derives from the neighborhood to preserve the historic character of that neighborhood. It is quite another to ask the same thing of a non-profit entity that is not deriving a profit from the neighborhood, but is providing a service to the neighborhood.”

Additionally, he wrote that historic preservation is not a benefit to non-profit like a school, it is a burden. “Thus, any historic preservation over a non-profit property owner’s objection should be funded by an assessment on the nearby properties that will derive the benefit from that designation,” said Anderson.

Letters against designation
In three sample letters sent out during the email blast, TCGIS supporters were urged to ask the Historic Preservation Commission to avoid giving “a crumbling former church building, owned by the Twin Cities German Immersion School, an historic designation that will put an unrealistic financial burden on this public charter school.”

The letters referred to it as a “short-sighted petition” that is “being presented by a small, vocal and selfish minority of neighbors.”

The letters TCGIS school supporters were asked to send to the commission also stated: “The petition to designate the property as an historic structure is selfish—and self-serving—and is taking money away from kids in a successful school environment: Every dollar the school spends on opposing the petition, or on complying with historic designation requirements, is a dollar that is taken away from the kids the school is entrusted with educating.”

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For 77 years Our Lady of Peace offers hospice care, compassion

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

Our Lady of Peace Hospice Residence is an oasis of kindness at the intersection of St. Anthony and Cleveland avenues. Outside, the traffic roars by on Interstate 94 but inside, the atmosphere is peaceful and calm. Large windows open to a memorial garden at the back of the property; natural light blankets the interior spaces. It is the stated, sacred duty of Our Lady of Peace to provide care, comfort, and compassion to people needing end-of-life services—regardless of social status, religion, or ability to pay.

Photo right: The Medicare-certified, residential facility at 2076 St. Anthony Ave. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

In addition to providing a full range of hospice services at their residential site, Our Lady of Peace Community Hospice can come to wherever patients are: in their own homes, in senior communities, long-term care facilities, or homeless shelters. They also bring their Home Health Services to wherever home is, including skilled nursing, psychological support, massage therapy, music therapy, spiritual care, and bereavement support.

Begun by Dominican nuns in 1941, the original Our Lady of Good Counsel Home was a free end-of-life facility that served the city’s “cancer poor.” By 2009, the self-described “humble organization” had provided care for more than 15,000 patients. At that time, the operation of the home transitioned to the Franciscan Health

Community; in 2015, they underwent a name change to Our Lady of Peace.

While the non-profit organization is Catholic and four nuns are still part of the care team, people of all faiths (or no faith) are welcome. Their mission has expanded over the years to include adult patients with diagnoses other than, but including, cancer, and children with terminal cancer.

Photo left: Social worker Kelly Pietrzak (left) and nurse Sister Polsy (right) have different jobs at Our Lady of Peace, but share the commitment that no one should be turned away from high quality end-of-life care. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Residential nursing supervisor and hospice educator Frezgi Hiskias said, “There are a lot of misconceptions about what hospice is. Many people think that patients must be actively dying to be in hospice, but we generally serve patients in their last 4-6 weeks of life. In the 14 years I have worked here, I have seen the turnover rate grow faster. At Our Lady of Peace Home, we now admit 30+ patients per month. We wish that people wouldn’t wait until the end, because in hospice we see the patient as a whole person, including relationships with family members and friends. We are very inclusive.”

Hiskias explained, “This model of inclusion extends to the way staff members work together too. Every Wednesday we have something called an Interdisciplinary Team Meeting, where the whole care team of doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplaincy comes together. We maintain 21 beds for patients on two separate floors: one for men and one for women. We are passionate about cleanliness and hygiene. We are passionate about providing care in the most dignified and gracious way possible. Dying is not easy for most people, and when I started I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the dying process. It’s a touchy subject, and one that wasn’t taught in nursing school.”

Social worker Kelly Pietrzak agreed. “On the social work side,” she said, “we help to bring things to a close as gently as possible. I work primarily with patients who are in home-based care. Despite the enormity of losing a loved one, rent still has to be paid, and everything goes better when there’s food on the fridge. We take care of all those practical things, plus a hundred other details. We provide services in all seven metro counties, and we need volunteers out in the community as well as at the Our Lady of Peace Home. When I started working here ten years ago, we had an average daily census of four patients out in the community. We currently serve more than 60.”

“As our patient count has grown, we’re fortunate that our volunteer base has too,” Pietrzak said. “At this time, we have 70 dedicated volunteers—many of them are family members of loved ones we have cared for. Our volunteers provide the equivalent of two full-time employees, with a variety of skills and interests. We especially need volunteers who are willing to travel beyond our residential facility right now. We serve patients at the Episcopal Church Home and Gardens Facility on University and Fairview avenues, Heart to Home’s four residential houses in Mendota, and the Wheeler Ave. Rahkma Home (near St. Catherine’s)—which are all nearby. We ask for a time commitment of at least one hour per week for one year. We provide training to get a new volunteer fully integrated into our hospice model, and into what their volunteer role and responsibilities will be.”

Finally, Our Lady of Peace has a Bereavement Department that connects with families during hospice care, and for 13 months after their loved one has passed. Grief groups and grief events (like the annual Celebration of Life in December) are open to community members. Check their website at www.ourladyofpeacemn.org for complete details.

For information on volunteering with Our Lady of Peace, call Tara Burns at 651-789-6824 or email tarab@ourladyofpeacemn.org.

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Proir Affair 040

Prior Affair hosts events to support community arts movement

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

Betsey Giles started knitting last May and creates her double knit scarves and hats on flat or circular looms. Through her business Three Bears Fun Fur, she has been crafting ultra-warm, faux fur hats for years.

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
BlackStack Brewing hosted 33 artists during business hours on Oct. 27-28, once again lending support to the community arts movement Prior Affair. The weekend event, called “Meet your Maker,” introduced emerging and established artists to shoppers in a friendly, face-to-face exchange.

Photo right: Prior Affair organizers (left to right) are Elizabeth McAllister, Skot Rieffer, and Addison.

Prior Affair has been organizing events like this for the past year. Co-founders Skot Rieffer, a sculptor, and Addison, a papermaker/book illustrator, met through theater work, learned they both were practicing visual artists, and decided to collaborate. Prior Affair was born, and they have hosted nine events so far—all at BlackStack Brewing (755 Prior Ave. N.) Painter and textile artist Elizabeth McAllester recently joined them as part of their planning team.

The three will convene a community meeting at 6pm on Sat., Dec. 8 at BlackStack Brewing. Artists and neighbors are invited to discuss where Prior Affair is headed in the New Year in a casual, round-table conversation. One of the items for consideration is whether Prior Affair will move forward in filing for non-profit status in 2019.

Photo left: Rita Drury of Drury Lane sews pillows and every size of bag imaginable. She uses empty coffee sacks provided by True Stone Coffee Roasters to create globally sourced, one-of-a-kind products that are impeccably well sewn.

Prior Affair organizes two large spring and fall events annually, and smaller, monthly events that present artists and neighborhood businesses before mutual audiences.

Rieffer said, “Addison, Elizabeth and I had all participated in art and craft shows before, but didn’t particularly like the way they were organized. My favorite thing about Prior Affair is that we’re approachable—artists can come to us and suggest ways to make our events even better.”

Photo right: Shoppers responded to clay works by Ollie Schminkey of Sick Kitty Ceramics. They make molds of fingers and teeth, and use them to adorn hand thrown cups and bowls. They said, “Dentists are always interested in my work, but never buy anything because it might scare their patients.”

These are some of the neighborhood businesses that have lent support to artists in the form of product donations for events, or contributing space for event hosting: Work It, Celtic Junction, Pura Vida Massage, True Stone Coffee Roasters, Vistabule, Flanneljax, MN Tool Library, Brady Studio, Hamline Midway Coalition, Expertise Fitness, BlackStack Brewing, and the landlords of 755 Prior Ave. N., Rod and Michelle Musson.

Photo left: Painter Kelsey Oseid owns Kelzuki Art and Goods and heard about the Prior Affair event through local “art murmurings.” Her medium is gouache, a paint somewhere between watercolor and acrylic.

The next event is scheduled for Sat., Nov. 24, 2-7pm at (of course) BlackStack Brewing. Each of the Prior Affair events is loosely themed, and November’s theme is gratitude.

Email prior.affair@gmail.com to inquire about participating as an artist. There is a $25 application fee, negotiable in the case of financial hardship.

Photo right: MN Tool Library brought in 100+ pumpkins, sold them for $8, and provided tools for people to create Halloween masterpieces. Egg beaters were used to scoop out the insides, which were then brought to the county compost site a few blocks away.

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Barbara Wiener 84

Local filmmaker makes her mark with ‘sentencing films’

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

(All photos submitted)

Local filmmaker Barbara Wiener (photo right) can add to her resume that she helped to liberate an African country. This accomplishment comes as part of her journey on the path of making sentencing films.

Wiener has been a filmmaker and teacher for the past 30 years. She has worked in public television and currently teaches film at Film North, 550 Vandalia Ave., and at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park. She also founded TVbyGIRLS, a nonprofit that collaborates with and mentors teen girls using the tools of filmmaking to develop critical thinking, leadership, and social change film work.

She did her first sentencing film in 2014. She has completed two more.

“They’re called sentencing films because they are used in sentencing,” she said. “In general, it’s not a trial. The defendant has already said yes, I am guilty of the crime. All the legal arguments have already been made, and now it’s up to the judge to sort through all the information for both the prosecutor and defense attorney.”

Wiener explained that the films are usually created for the judge to view to get the perspective of the defendant in the case before pronouncing sentencing.

“The first one I did, I knew the lawyer, Robert. His son had been in one of my films. Robert was one of the lawyers defending five Gambian American men,” Wiener said. The middle-aged men had been part of a small coalition of Gambians living in America who planned a bloodless coup of the Gambia government after their countrymen had been living under a brutal dictatorship for 21 years.

“I had never heard of The Gambia (officially the Republic of The Gambia) and did not even know where it was,” Wiener recalled. It is the smallest country in continental mainland Africa, and in 1970 The Gambia became a republic within the English Commonwealth and established as a democracy.

But in 1994 Yahya Jammeh overthrew the government, became the new leader, and banned all opposition political activity. Jammeh turned into a brutal dictator, according to the accounts of The Gambian people and based on his own words, caught on video. Reporters were jailed and tortured, as were his political enemies or anyone who disagreed with him.

Gambians in America had appealed to the US State Department, European Union, the UN, and the African Union; anywhere anyone would listen. It seemed that no one cared, according to Wiener.

The coup by Gambian Americans was not successful. Wiener said she learned they had been betrayed, some killed and the rest ran for their lives back to the United States.

“They violated a US law written in 1874 called the Neutrality Act that makes it illegal for American citizens to take up arms against a county we are at peace with,” Wiener explained. The FBI charged them with a federal crime, and the men were facing up to 30 years in prison.

Wiener met with the lawyers and looked at the charges. The attorneys admitted the men had broken the law, but they were good people. “I don’t think it matters whether they are good people,” Wiener told them. “I think we have to do a film where we get the judge to feel like he is walking in their shoes…they were doing what early Americans did, saying no to oppression.”

In this film, Wiener never interviewed the defendants but instead, with an assistant, went to five different states and talked to Gambian Americans who could describe the imprisonment, the torture, and the fear The Gambian people had lived under for the past 21 years. She was also able to obtain videos of Jammeh describing his acts of violence and even footage of his guards beating up American citizens in Washington, DC, who protested during a visit he made to the United States.

The one-hour film, “The Pain of a People,” was entered in evidence and shown not just to the judge but to the courtroom. After viewing the film, the judge in the case asked for an extra day to make the sentencing decision.

“The longest sentence given was nine months, and some were given parole,” Wiener said. Although the coup had not worked, the bravery of those involved was celebrated, and within a year The Gambia was liberated. Jammeh had been defeated in a fair election, and when he refused to give up his power, the African Union stepped in and escorted him out.

“The Gambia is still struggling,” Wiener said, “but it is a democracy again. It shows the power of courageous heroes. If you can hear a story of people willing to be heroic, then people gain hope, and they can be heroes, too.”

Wiener was again called by her lawyer friend about another case, a man who had a wonderful career, beautiful home in the suburbs and a great family with two sets of twins. But he risked it all to go to the Dark Internet and view child porn, and he was caught in an FBI sting. He was removed from his house immediately, and his children were not allowed to see him.

“He was not a pedophile and did not hurt his children, but he did something terrible because children were hurt somewhere who were in these pictures,” Wiener said. But his children wanted their voices heard. This was the guy who went to all their sports events, supported them and was the guy they adored. They felt no one was listening to them.

“I was called in to work with the kids,” Wiener said. “I interviewed them and captured each one of them and how they felt, got their family interactions. The goal was for them to have a voice, and work that into the sentencing so they would not be completely isolated from their dad.”

He was sentenced to three years. The tragedy was compounded when the mom fell and died from a hemorrhage while doing laundry in the basement six months after he went to prison.

The children were left without either parent.

“I wouldn’t have done a film for the father, because I wouldn’t do something that would support a person watching child pornography, but I felt it was really important to do that film for the children.”

Wiener recently completed another film in which she interviewed a defendant who had admitted his guilt and did not repent. The case is so current Wiener cannot discuss the details.

“This is the only one in which I have interviewed the defendant,” she said. “He told what happened, what his experience was, what he did and why. It is important if you break a law that it has a component to it,” Wiener noted, “that takes a look at a bigger law and morality of choice.”

Wiener said that she gets very drawn into the story when making these sentencing films. “I try and communicate the truth of whatever is the subject,” she said. “I feel strongly about people and their stories, and the flip side is I get very involved.”

Putting out real stories that resonate and are about how people are resilient in what they do is Wiener’s goal. She said she has always had a passion for social justice and hopes to continue creating sentencing films along with all of her other work.

“Unless you really think about the emotional aspects in telling a story, you end up with cat videos,” Wiener commented with a smile. “Those may be fun, but we need people telling real stories with skill.”

Wiener said her father once told her she was too sensitive, but she said she feels very strongly about the kinds of films she does and feels very connected. “I don’t know if that makes me a better filmmaker, but it makes me a happier one,” she said.

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Jim Bohen 15

Poetry readings will celebrate new book by Jim Bohen

Posted on 05 November 2018 by Calvin

Local poet Jim Bohen (photo right by Margie O’Loughlin) just experienced something that doesn’t happen every day. Not only did he publish a poem, but he also published 82 of them in a newly released collection called, “I travel in rusting burned-out sedans.”

“I submitted my collection to more than 20 publishers before getting picked up by Unsolicited Press in Portland, OR,” he said. “There are a tremendous number of good poems in this world that don’t get published.”

Bohen has lived in the Merriam Park neighborhood with his wife, Bonnie, for 34 years. They raised two children there, and are now helping care for their 16-month-old granddaughter. At 71, Bohen has been writing poems and songs for more than 50 years. He writes quietly at his desk and prefers longhand on real paper for early drafts.

He doesn’t multitask much. If he goes for a walk, he takes a notebook with him and jots down ideas for poems—but he stops walking while he does it. He said, “I do something related to poetry every day, whether it’s writing myself or reading other poets.”

He held is first book launch event on Nov. 7. His second will be Tues., Nov. 13 (7pm) at Merriam Park Library, 1831 Marshall Ave.

In addition, on Tues., Nov. 27th at Common Good Books (38 Snelling Ave. S.), and on Wed., Nov. 28 at Subtext Books in downtown St. Paul (6 W. 5th St.), Bohen will have a shared reading with local poets Joyce Sutphen, Sharon Chmielarz, and Norita Dittberner-Jax. He said, “I’m so pleased to be reading with these women who, in addition to Michael Bazzett and Ethna McKiernan, are some of my favorite Minnesota poets.”

A Minnesotan through and through, Bohen has stayed pretty close to his roots. “I grew up four blocks from where we live now, attended St. Mark’s Catholic School, St. Thomas Academy, the University of St. Thomas, and finally the U of M.”

He went on to have a long career as a writer, but it didn’t always involve poetry. Looking back, he said, “I first got published in my 20’s, and that maybe wasn’t so good for me. When I was a graduate student at the U of M, the editor of the student newspaper gave me a front-page box in the Arts and Entertainment section. That set up an unreasonable expectation that I would get paid for writing poetry.”

As it turned out, poetry soon got put on the back shelf. In different chapters of his life, Bohen would go on to play in a rock band and a folk trio, work as program director for the Irish American Cultural Institute, learn the ropes of book publishing, and finally begin freelance writing in 1993. “Most notably,” he said, “I wrote about cars for the Star Tribune and articles for various trade magazines. I didn’t love it, but sometimes I got to write stories on things I cared about—like car seat safety for children.”

Bohen continued, “A few years ago, a poet friend invited me to join her writing group and I quickly got back into writing poetry. I had lived a lot of life by then, and I realized that it was okay to write about that. When I was young, I thought poetry was supposed to be profound, and grandiose—with high toned language. Suddenly I was writing about ordinary stuff, like preparing for an estate sale after my Mother’s death.”

By his description, Bohen writes three kinds of free verse (which means no formal rhyming pattern): short, lyrical poems; “prosier,” sometimes humorous poems; and more difficult, obscure pieces, ones that sometimes even he doesn’t understand.

Laying in for winter
By James Bohen
Tell me a story, any story,
so I have something to pocket,
something to pull out one dark
day, the kind when you clean
out every nook, every place,
then look for more, to find
something – anything –
you can use.

For more information about upcoming events or to schedule a reading, contact Jim Bohen at 651-645-4797 or email him at jamesbohen@yahoo.com.

Copies of the book “I travel in rusting burned-out sedans” will be available for purchase at any of the scheduled events. Discounts are available for book clubs and other large orders.

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United Seminary slider

United Theological Seminary to move from New Brighton to Midway

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

Ecumenical seminary supports a community-based model to serve diversity of people inside and outside the church

At a time when seminary students are seeking connection, flexibility, and community involvement, the United Theological Seminary has decided to move from the suburbs into the city.

Seminary representatives signed a lease in September for 25,000 square feet at the Case Building (767 N. Eustis St.), and work will start soon on the space.

Classes for the spring term will begin at the new campus on Jan. 14, 2019.

Photo right: United Theological Seminary will be moving from New Brighton into the Towerside Innovation District and Creative Enterprise Zone in St. Paul. Classes are set to start in the former Case warehouse at 767 N. Eustice St. in January 2019, which is just a few blocks away from the Green Lightrail line on University. The new location also sits at the intersection of Highway 280 and Interstate 94. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“Our new campus space will be designed to best serve seminary education of today where many students participate remotely and require state-of-the-art technology, and many in-residence students commute and prefer an urban setting with access to mass transit,” observed United Theological Seminary President Lee Zeidner (photo left provided).

“It will be in a vibrant community surrounded by emerging arts and non-profit organizations with socially conscious missions—this will create opportunities for collaborative efforts and opportunities for students to be involved in a multitude of community efforts as part of their training.”

Global Academy, a pre-K-8th grade International Baccalaureate Charter School, has purchased the seminary’s former location in New Brighton.

A melting pot of faith
United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities was founded in 1962 by the United Church of Christ as an ecumenical seminary serving all Protestant denominations. “Unlike other seminaries in the Cities that were single denomination focused (Lutheran, Baptist or Roman Catholic), United’s founders recognized the value of ecumenical training as families and communities became melting pots of faith traditions,” observed Zeidner.

United was started in New Brighton as the merging of two seminaries: Yankton Seminary in South Dakota and Mission House Seminary in Wisconsin. The land it was built on was originally a pig farm. In the 1980s, much of the land was sold off and became Seminary Estates, a community of single-family homes.

Photo right: United Theological Seminary students in a typical class with examples of the school’s theological art collection in the background. (Photo submitted)

The current campus in New Brighton consisted of about five acres with four buildings: the original classroom building that now includes an award-winning architectural chapel built about ten years ago, a library and dining building, an administrative building and the residence building.

United will continue to own and operate the residential units adjacent to the New Brighton campus and rent them to students. The seminary will provide subsidies for transportation from the residential units to the St. Paul campus for students that do not have access to cars.

Strong social justice bent
United has had a strong social justice bent throughout its existence, pointed out Zeidner, such as advocating for women in ministry 25 years ago when faith leadership was very male-dominated.

United has served many seminarians who have been historically marginalized by traditional church teachings, he added, and United’s work has evolved as societal challenges inside and outside of the church have similarly changed.

“More recently United has been on the front lines of advocating for the welcoming and affirming of gay and lesbian people in the church and now in ministry,” said Zeidner.

“Seminary was once a cloistered environment mostly serving white men on a path to church ministry—today it is a community-based model that serves a wide diversity of people on paths to serving people inside and outside the church in developing and exploring their spiritual lives,” remarked Zeidner.

Photo left: United Seminary students learn alongside distance education students (on the screen in the background). (Photo submitted)

United has increased its focus on inter-religious chaplaincy —helping chaplains who will serve patients in hospitals, long-term care facilities, the military, and other settings to better understand and relate to people of all faith traditions, not just Christians.

“Deeply understanding intercultural and inter-religious wisdom can help our graduates better serve those who they are in service to,” remarked Zeidner.

This fall, there are about 100 students enrolled at United, 80% in masters programs and 20% in doctoral programs.

About 30% of students are people of color, and 47% of students identify themselves as female. Students come from across the United States, as well as from all continents and a multitude of countries outside of the U.S.

No denomination represents more than 20% of students. Students who define themselves as “none” (having no religious path in their background) represent nearly 10% of students.

A flexible space
The one-story, 180-000-sq-ft brick Case Building was built by the Case Corp. in 1948 as a tractor parts distribution warehouse. Suntide Commercial Realty initiated development of the 1940s structure in St. Paul’s Westgate industrial area. The area includes about six city blocks nestled into an area bounded by University Ave. to the north, Hwy. 280 to the east, Interstate 94 to the south and the Minneapolis border to the west.

The space is currently a large shell with structural characteristics including many skylights and an urban green space. United hired Doug Pierce, an architect from Perkins and Will, to design its new campus.

The design will include a beautiful chapel, flexible space for creative expression including visual and performing arts, a space for prayer and meditation for those of many faiths, a community dining area, large classrooms with state-of-the-art technology, a technologically modern library, multiple bright and engaging student huddle and study areas and a patio in an urban green space right outside. The city plans to transform an abandoned rail spur and bridge over Hwy. 280 into a bike-and-pedestrian trail connection running past the Case Building.

“Our new space is designed with input from students, alumni, faculty and staff and in that context will create an ideal learning culture for a diverse and vibrant seminary community,” commented Zeidner.

“The space is designed to be fully accessible, green and comfortable for our diverse student, faculty, and staff body.”

United’s move to the Towerside Innovation District and Creative Enterprise Zone will better support existing curricular offerings and make way for new educational models.

While coursework in the arts and theology, social justice, and interreligious competency have been optional up until now, starting fall 2019, they will be required. Technology infrastructure will support a growing base of distance education students.

Rev. Karen Hutt, vice president for student formation, vocation, and experience, plans to provide new places and contexts for United students to serve. “We’ve partnered with Episcopal Homes to support their spiritual development program through chaplaincy internships,” stated Hutt.
She continued, “Our partnership with Episcopal Homes is just one way our students are addressing the changing role of the church.

“People are lonely and in trouble everywhere—public spaces, clinics, libraries, correctional facilities, waiting rooms and human service organizations. These same people may not be going to church to talk to a minister, but they certainly benefit from talking to a chaplain or even a chaplain in training. This is what community and fellowship look like to our seminary students.”

The concept of church evolving
The concept of the church may be evolving, but the core needs of people are not going away, stated Zeidner.

“While much has been written about the diminishing perceived need for ‘church’ at the center of community life in modern society, the need for a spiritual life within the community is growing life,” said Zeidner. “A place to ask the big questions of life about the broader meanings of our lives and how we can live happier and more fulfilled lives in community with others are still important to many.”

He continued, “Despite the clouds of ambiguity about the future of faith communities, it seems clear that less will center on large buildings with steeples and stained glass.”

“More will require leaders who can bridge between the everyday experiences of people and historical contexts and texts in a manner that is perceived as relevant and useful,” Zeidner concluded. “More will require leaders who can lead from within the community rather than from raised pulpits with sage voices. Leaders will require strong interpersonal skills with egos that can tolerate conflict and ambiguity. More will require deep skills at meeting the spiritual and emotional needs of people.”

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CRWD is 20! 120

Capitol Region Watershed District celebrates 20 years of service

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

The iron used to make Ringler’s sculpture was heated to 2,500 degrees, and carried very carefully to the pour site by her students. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) celebrated two decades of exemplary water stewardship on Sept. 21. The well-attended gathering served several purposes: it showcased the agency’s new headquarters at 595 Aldine St., which will be completed in November. It was a chance to celebrate CRWD’s many achievements and strong community partnerships. And last, but far from least, supporters were able to watch sculptor Tamsie Ringler and her team make an art piece out of molten iron as the sun went down.

CRWD is a local, special-purpose unit of government that works to protect, manage, and improve lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands within its boundaries. The district covers 40 square miles and includes portions of Maplewood, Rosedale, and St. Paul. All of the water in the district eventually drains into the Mississippi River.

Administrator Mark Doneux opened the evening’s program by saying, “We have had many successful projects and innovations in the last 20 years, all of which happened because of strong partnerships.”

Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman was the first to lift her glass and offer a toast. “I haven’t seen another agency that does a better job of using tools and tax levies responsibly. Here’s to another 20 years!” she said.

CRWD Citizen Advisory Committee Member David Arbeit has been on the board since the first day. “We moved to the Como neighborhood from Austin Texas,” he said, “and couldn’t believe how awful the water quality of Como Lake was at the time. The District 10 Council invited neighbors in to talk about what could be done. A group of us petitioned the State of Minnesota, and a modest version of CRWD was created in 1998. We’re proud of how far we’ve come.”

Following complimentary food from the Foxy Felafel food truck, beverages from Burning Brothers Brewery, and live blues music by Dan Rumsey, sculptor Tamsie Ringler supervised a live performance pour of molten iron. The iron used to make Ringler’s sculpture was heated to 2,5000 degrees and carried very carefully to the pour site by her students. The bright red metal filled the rivulets and streams of the 8 1/2’ x 12’ mold, eventually forming a portrait of the river that will hang in the new office building.

CRWD is excited to start the next chapter in its history. They’ll be moving into their Midway location in November, a repurposed building that formerly housed city street sweepers. Green building principles have been used to remodel the entire building, including stormwater management and energy-saving practices. The building will have public, interactive features designed to provide a unique look at watershed science. There will also be an on-site watershed learning center and a pocket park with water elements for neighbors and visitors to enjoy.

For more information, visit www.capitolregionwd.org.

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Galtier 16

New maker space at Galtier Elementary is a hit with students

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

A maker space is someplace where students gather to create, invent, tinker, explore, and discover, using a variety of tools and materials. No two school maker spaces are exactly alike—they’re as unique as the school culture they represent.

Galtier Elementary, 1317 Charles Ave., has a brand new maker space located in their Exploratorium/Library. According to principal Sharon Hendrix, “All of the classes (K-5) get a 50-minute block of time in the maker space each week. Suddenly it’s everybody’s favorite thing to do.”

Hendrix is a second year principal at Galtier, and a 29-year veteran of the Saint Paul Public School District. “I’ve been very inspired by the maker space at the new Bell Museum,” she said, “and it helped to bring my thinking to the next level of what a maker space could be. Our staff believes in the mindset of our maker space because it incorporates design thinking and collaboration. The kids are challenged to look at problem-solving physically, by manipulating materials with their hands. They’re also challenged to look at form and function in real, three-dimensional ways.”

Photo right: Principal Sharon Hendrix enjoyed Galtier Elementary School’s new maker space, along with a kindergarten class. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The open, inviting space at Galtier has several low tables, and a variety of materials set out for kids to experiment with: everything from legos, blocks, and marbles to Play-Doh and craft materials. Students either work independently or with a friend, requiring relatively little instruction or assistance.

Hendrix explained, “We also have a 3D printer which has been popular with all of the grades. It’s important for kids to learn how to code computers and, with the 3D printer, they can see the results of their coding. It’s like learning a foreign language, and it’s an important one to learn. 80% of the jobs that will exist for our elementary school age students don’t even exist yet.”

Hendrix is looking for parents and community members interested in volunteering in the maker space, either on an ongoing or occasional basis. The supervising teacher, Wilson Goss, would always be present, and volunteers would work with small groups of no more than five students at a time. All talents and interests are welcome; makers are artists, crafters, knitters, seamstresses, builders, programmers, engineers, painters, woodworkers, tinkerers, inventors, graphic artists and more. Contact Hendrix directly at 651-293-8710 if you are interested.

The maker space is part of the five-year vision Hendrix has for Galtier Elementary. “I wrote and received a 50K Bush Foundation grant last April,” she said. “We’re using the grant in a number of ways including teacher training to personalize the learning experience, and professional development on improving classroom management with non-verbal cues. There are a number of students enrolled here who are coming from difficult life situations; we can’t get to academic learning until we have success with social and emotional learning. Our test scores are still not great, but I’m hopeful that innovations like the maker space, along with our other efforts to personalize learning, can help to turn things around.”

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Prior Ave N

On-street parking? Nope, wider bike lanes with buffer zones.

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

Right now, Prior Ave. between University and Minnehaha avenues has 2 traffic lanes, 2 5-ft bike lanes and one parking lane. A Council-passed proposal would widen the bike lanes and remove the on-street parking. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Wider, buffered bike lanes will be installed on Prior Ave. between University and Minnehaha avenues. The St. Paul City Council approved the project Sept. 5. The lanes are intended to provide a safer and more comfortable cycling experience on a north-south bike route. Work will be done as part of a street mill and overlay project this fall.

City Council members said they’ve heard strong support for bike lane improvements and unanimously approved the project. While the project has its supporters, including Hamline Midway Coalition and area cyclists and members of the city’s cycling groups, it has drawn objections from a landscaping business that uses Prior for parking.

Prior has had bike lanes for several years but they are about five feet wide in the area north of University. It’s not a width city officials and cyclists consider adequate today.

“It does meet our standards for bike lanes, but it is the absolute minimum,” said Reuben Collins of St. Paul Public Works.

Prior is a collector street and Municipal-State Aid route. It carries more than 4,800 vehicles per day. The posted speed is 30 miles per hour. It’s not a transit route but connects to several bus routes and Green Line light rail at University.

The street is about 40’ wide between Charles and Minnehaha avenues, with two 11’ travel lanes, two 5’ bike lanes, and an 8’ parking lane. It has parking on the east side.

The changes after the mill and overlay allow for 11’ travel lanes, 2’ buffer lanes, 7’ bike lanes, and no on-street parking. Public Works will also reconfigure the area near University on the north side of Prior, to add turning space and improve safety.

Because the project is in a commercial-industrial area with no residential uses, Public Works didn’t hold an open house but instead reached out to property owners. One property owner objected to the project, citing the loss of on-street parking.

Josh Arvold and his brother own Arvold Landscaping at 622 Prior. They bought their property in February and use their lot area to store landscaping materials and supplies. Arvold said employees and customers park on Prior and will have to walk a block when the parking is removed.

While supporting the street and bike improvements, Arvold said the change would create a hardship for the family business.

Collins said city officials heard from a second business owner who wants changes made on Prior south of University. But those won’t happen until the street is reconstructed in 2022.

Another person who’d like to see improvements extended north is Rob Clapp, one of the owners of the Can Can Wonderland entertainment complex just north of Minnehaha. He asked if the mill and overlay could be extended one block, as that stretch of street is in poor condition, and also asked city officials to consider making the street more walkable.

Clapp and other proponents spoke for the project’s safety aspects for bicyclists. Hamline Midway Coalition member Erin Parrish was among those who frequently bike along Prior, and don’t feel safe with the current narrow lane configuration. Neighborhood resident Jake Ruter cited the importance of Prior as a bike corridor.

Improvements to Prior are consistent with the bicycle plan the City Council adopted in 2015. Long-term, a goal is to have the lanes be a connection to a future bike route along Pierce Butler Rte.

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Adopt a drain 1

Which neighborhood can adopt more drains?

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Calvin

Como, Hamline-Midway, and Macalester-Groveland accept the adopt-a-drain challenge for cleaner water

Which St. Paul neighborhood can adopt more storm drains over the next year? The challenge has been accepted by the Como, Hamline-Midway, and Macalester-Groveland neighborhoods.

As of Oct. 1, 630 storm drains have been adopted by local residents.

The official breakdown of the competing neighborhoods:
• Como/District 10—197 participants have adopted 297 drains.
• Hamline-Midway—103 participants have adopted 159 drains.
• Mac-Groveland—115 participants have adopted 174 drains.

“Unlike adopting a pet or a child, storm drains are pretty easy to take care of,” remarked Hamline Midway Environment Committee member Lucia Hunt. “By signing up, a neighbor commits to watching a drain and making sure it stays clear of garbage, leaves, ice, and other debris. This means visiting the storm drain every month or two and sweeping it clean, weeding around it, and tossing litter into the trash. Chopping ice buildup in the winter is a great way to keep our streets clear and dry during slush season.”

Hunt first learned about the Adopt-A-Drain program while going through the Master Water Steward coursework when they were all encouraged to adopt their own drain.

“There is an education component to the Master Water Steward program, and instead of coming up with a unique idea, I thought about how to increase adoption rates in my neighborhood,” recalled Hunt. “I wanted to start a friendly competition between the neighborhoods to inspire some pride and pleasure in water conservation.”

The competition between neighborhoods began in August.

What washes down the drain…
“Water quality issues are making the news more and more here in Minnesota. We talk a lot about the impact of agricultural practices, but our urban impact can be just as damaging to the water bodies we love and are connected with,” observed Hunt. “Some of us use pesticides and fertilizers on our lawns, rake our leaves into the street, or are careless with our wrappers and garbage. It is important to realize what happens to all that stuff when it goes down the drains.”

“Many people do not know that our storm sewers go directly into lakes and rivers without any filtration,” remarked Jenni Abere, who administers the Adopt-A-Drain program out of Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education. “Also, many people don’t know that leaves and grass (in excess) actually pollute lakes and rivers.”

Phosphorus is one of the most troublesome pollutants in stormwater runoff. When leaves, lawn clippings, animal wastes, fertilizers, and soil are picked up by stormwater runoff and are carried directly to local lakes and streams, they provide the lakes with excess phosphorus. This excess phosphorus increases algae growth and is why lakes turn green.

“All of the water, plastic bottles, straws, leaves, and road grime go straight through the underground pipes to the Mississippi River—unfiltered, untreated, and unseen,” stated Hunt.

“We do not have any surface water in the Hamline Midway neighborhood, so everything appears to just ‘go away.’ However, if you take a stroll along the riverbanks, it’s a real eye-opener when you see all that trash accumulating and even worse is the invisible nutrient load flowing downstream.”

District 10 Como Community Council Executive Director Michael Kuchta pointed out that storm sewers are the tributaries for Como Lake.

“What washes down the sewer grates goes directly into the lake—trash, excessive nutrients, and who knows what else. It’s the equivalent to manure and fertilizer runoff into the Minnesota River. It directly degrades water quality,” stated Kuchta. “In our case, anyone walking past could see and smell the consequences this summer—green water, algae blooms, and all kinds of trash in the water and on the shoreline.”

40,000 pounds of debris diverted last year
By adopting a drain, participants commit to keeping it clear of leaves, trash, and sediment. These simple steps keep debris from washing down the storm drain and becoming pollution in local waterways.

Last winter and spring, St. Paul participants diverted more than 40,000 pounds of debris from metro area lakes and rivers.

The Adopt-A-Drain program began in 2014 with support from the city of St. Paul and Capitol Region Watershed District. It was subsequently piloted in Bloomington, Roseville, Maple Grove, and Minneapolis, with support from those cities plus Nine Mile Creek and Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed Districts.

“There is a surprising number of people who are not ‘official’ adopters but who have been cleaning out their storm drains for years,” Hunt commented. “They understand that the work they do benefits the entire neighborhood and that those individual civic actions make the Midway a better place to live.

“If you are considering adopting, look for one that you walk by or live by so it’s not a hassle to visit it. You can even give your drain a name! Sign up at Adopt-a-Drain.org and pick one or two drains, or go all out and adopt an entire intersection to call your own.”

Kuchta added, “We’re in this friendly competition with other neighborhoods because it provides a fun way for all of us to take a simple, specific step to start turning things around. If residents adopt a drain, if they keep catch basins and gutters clear of grass clippings, leaves, and other debris, it makes an immediate, positive impact on Como Lake. Plus, you get a nice-looking sign for your yard.”

This fall, District 10 is also partnering with the city’s public works department to spread the word that it is illegal to rake leaves into the street.

4-year-old adopts a drain
When four-year-old Miriam Hansen walked past the Adopt-A-Drain exhibit at the State Fair, it was a no-brainer for her family. They adopted a drain.

Photo left: Miriam Hansen checks her drain daily. “Drains need to be clean so the water can drain down it,” explained the four-year-old. (Photo submitted)

“My daughter’s pre-K class focused on learning about rivers,” explained her mother, Jill Hansen, of the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, who was inspired by her daughter’s excitement. “As a part of this, they included drains and where the water goes.”

During family walks, they started paying attention to the storm drains they walked past and cleaning them as needed. “We had many conversations about water, the animals living in and around the river, and the effect trash can have on them,” said J. Hansen. “It was exciting for our daughter. The connection she made with helping the earth and animals was caring and beautiful.”

Miriam checks her drain daily. If she notices that the drain near hers that was adopted by neighbors needs to be cleared, she is very prompt in telling them so.

“Drains need to be clean so the water can drain down it,” explained the four-year-old. “The water goes to the river. We can’t let garbage go down it because then the fish could eat it and die.”
J. Hansen appreciates the Adopt-A-Drain program.

“I love that it empowers the community to play a small part,” said J. Hansen. “If we all do a small part it can make a big difference.”

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