Macalester and Minnesota History Center showcase Mac students' art

By Annie Lewine

The culmination of three years of collaboration between Macalester students and the Minnesota History Center will be on display Tuesday at an exhibition in downtown St. Paul. The exhibit, called “Right on Lake Street,” will showcase research projects from twelve Macalester classes.In September 2004, the Minnesota History Center began to develop a project with Macalester which would allow students to engage with a particular area of the city in order to provide background research for a future exhibit, Paul Schadewald, director of the Civic Engagement Center, said in a Macalester Talks podcast.

Over the past two years, students have engaged with Lake Street communities to develop over seventy-five small exhibition pieces as final research projects for classes. Many of the pieces and poster board projects first appeared at Lake Street community sites and were then adapted for the gallery exhibition, he said.

The collaboration with the Minnesota History Center is part of the Civic Engagement Center’s effort to connect Macalester students with the Twin Cities. In addition to the connections between students and the cities, the exhibit “highlights the connections between people and place; it’s a colorful and interactive gallery experience, like nothing ever seen before in the Twin Cities,” according to the Civic Engagement Center website.

In addition to the projects’ importance in engaging Macalester students with the Twin Cities, they also allowed students to explore course themes in a new way.

“The projects that [the students] chose really matched the learning goals of each of the classes,” Shadewald said in the podcast. “For example [Political Science professor] Paul Dosh taught a course on Latino politics and as part of this course students researched different sites on Lake Streets that were.important to the emerging Latino community on Lake Street.”

Some students in this class looked at churches along Lake Street that adapted to serve the growing Latino population on Lake Street as well as the Resource Center of the Americas which did advocacy work on Latin American issues, he said.
Other projects concentrated on consumer culture on Lake Street, examining restaurants and stores in the area.

One student researched the “Town Talk Diner,” and held a reunion for people who had been regulars at the caf, where they were able to exchange memories and stories about their time at the diner.

Another student studied bicycle use on Lake Street as a project for her Advanced Geographic Information Systems course in Fall 2006.

“I looked at bike routes, bike businesses and bicycle racks along Lake Street to gauge the cities’ and the public’s interest in bicycles,” Laura Kling ’07 said in the Macalester Talks podcast. “I found out that the interest in bicycles throughout history kind of peaked around Earth Day in the 1970’s and in the ’80s when the exercise craze hit, and now again with Global Warming and things like that people are trying to make their cities more bicycle-friendly and therefore earth-friendly.”

The “Right on Lake Street” exhibit will be open through March 9, 2008.