Youth from Minneapolis and St. Paul participating in conservation work along the Mississippi River collaborated with me to create a series of stories and experiences about their lives and work within the Mississippi’s watershed. Interested in all of the many layers of history accumulated along the urban banks of the river, I wanted to collaborate with youth working in the Mississippi River Watershed to create a network of stories about the river.
I worked with two groups of teenagers working on restoration along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis and St. Paul. In St. Paul, the Community Design Center of Minnesota (now Urban Roots) provides teens with leadership, entrepreneurship and career skills through environmental conservation and urban organic gardening. In Minneapolis, The Green Team partnership (or Minneapolis teen crew) was formed as a collaboration between the Community Design Center of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), and the National Park Service. The Minneapolis teens were recruited from high schools in north and northeast Minneapolis and also help with conservation work, while gaining exposure to careers in the “green” sector.
I presented the youth with a template of the boats I would make and they drew and wrote narratives about their lives living near the Mississippi. I then molded a porcelain boat for each one of the stories, and transferred the teens’ drawings onto the clay surface by creating a screen-printed replica of each one out of ceramic “ink” and pressing it onto the boats. Once the boats had been made, we met again with at Father Hennepin Bluffs Park to ceremoniously “launch” their boats into the river. The teens each told their stories and then placed their boats in the water as a gesture of their personal role in building a community of concerned citizens focused on water issues. Teens from St. Paul also “launched” some boats at Lake Phalen. All of the boats have been displayed in several locations for other communities to