By Sarah Nelson
To end 2018, I had the privilege of working through Inverted Arts with the St Paul Library’s Read Brave Program. The Read Brave Program is empowered by the city, and focuses on creating a communal dialogue around various topics relating to the participating community, This year’s topic was Housing. To pair with the Young Adult/Teen book, Burn Baby Burn, there were free art workshops that Inverted Arts and I worked to develop. I led four painting workshops between Dec 27th and 29th, each two hours long and fairly open ended. The prompt was simply to illustrate and share what home means to you.
Each Library (Rice Street, Rondo, Arlington, and Merriam) drew a varied crowd. At each workshop it was a room full of youth who wanted to share their story and what makes them feel safe and seen. Some had moved a lot and were wrestling with the idea of home and housing, some had multiple homes at the same time, some had never moved, and many cultures and ethnicities were able to come together and share the complexity of what home meant to them and learn from one another.
One of my favorite moments was when a Karin and a Jewish girl began to discuss each other’s paintings. They began talking about their cultures and home life. Home is deeply defining for many, and though housing is a concern for many in St Paul, home is something that can transcend walls and bring people together. It’s a powerful piece of who we are. Even if it is not static. Read Brave is a beautiful program, and I am so grateful for the staff and youth that I got to meet and interact with during my time at each library. Libraries are building communities and meeting needs in really profound ways. They are safe havens, and they sources of great discussion and growth in communities that need systems to root for them.
Thank you Inverted Arts and St Paul Libraries for inviting me into this series of events!