Minneapolis Communities Given a "Warm Welcome" by YCI Hub Project




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Sep 12, 2017
by Salzburg Global Seminar
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Minneapolis Communities Given a "Warm Welcome" by YCI Hub Project

YCI alumna brings together different Minnesota communities at pop-up cafe event Guests contributed to a tapestry combining maps of Somalia and Minnesota - an interwoven representation of the shared community

A YCI Hub project designed to give residents in Minneapolis an authentic cross cultural experience has been hailed a success.

Warm Welcome, a one-night pop-up cafe in a Minneapolis park ice skating warming house, recently brought together new and established Minnesota cultures in a friendly exchange.

The project was co-directed by YCI alumna Amanda Lovelee, a member of the Minnesota YCI Hub. She worked alongside Emily Stover as part of their collaborative group Plus/And. 

The group worked with the Somali Museum of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board to host the event.

Visitors were given a cup of Somali milky tea after they contributed to a tapestry combining maps of Somalia and Minnesota - an interwoven representation of the shared community.

Outside the warming house, four Somali grandmothers sang, laughed, and shared stories around a campfire much like the nomadic traditions of their childhood. 

The grant for the project was administered by Salzburg Global Seminar as part of funding received from The McKnight Foundation. Lovelee was one of several beneficiaries to receive a regional grant to undertake follow-on activities after attending Session 569 - Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators III.

Discussing the project, Lovelee said, "As artists, we hoped that Warm Welcome would be an experience where new and old Minnesota communities could meet, listen, learn, and recognize how much we all have to offer if we can all be open to receiving.

"Our intention was to deepen a sense of empathy for our immigrant neighbors through their food and their stories, while assuring those who might feel afraid that their presence is not merely tolerated, but desired. This traditional Minnesotan space, the ice skating warming house, was temporarily transformed into a place for mutual welcoming to the community we share."

Lovelee admitted organizers were unsure how many people would turn up for the event, which took place in February, but developments in the news cycle helped generate further interest.

She said, "Our invitation was released on social media the day of the travel ban, affecting Somali nationals and even Americans of Somali descent, was first instated, and the overwhelming response indicated many people felt the need to show up.

"We were offering an opportunity to neither hide nor protest, but to gather and celebrate the diverse culture that we’ve built together. Overall our team hosted around 150 people of different ages and ethnicities, including many passers-by who happened upon Warm Welcome as they enjoyed the unseasonably warm night.

"We had tea and mulawah left at the end of the night, and felt like our first Warm Welcome event accomplished what we’d set out to do, and was a small moment of hopeful exchange for many who attended."

The tapestry weaved throughout the evening by visitors represented a symbolic map of Minnesota and Somalia. At the end of the event, guests could see the blended borders of two distant and distinct places, so far apart in distance and in culture, becoming one. The final map was framed and given for display at the Somali Museum of Minnesota.

Moving forward, Plus/And is approaching Minneapolis Parks to consider alternative ways of making use of their warming houses. They also hope to design a series of mobile structures which can serve different functions all year round.

Lovelee said, "We hope that Warm Welcome can be an example of how these structures could be used to further the board’s mission. We are pursuing an opportunity to create a similar space for two weeks in January 2018, and intend to work with other immigrant community partners to share their cultural hot drinks, stories, and understanding.

"Overall we believe that Warm Welcome is an inviting space, bringing people together to share what makes us each unique in our state’s coldest season, and to bring some warmth to a cold time in our country’s history."