REVISIONING TWO HARBORS – WHAT’S OUR STORY?

ReVisioning Two Harbors is a community forum convened to share your ideas and thoughts on improving the economic, social, and cultural status of the City through the arts and other collaborative action.  This project of and by the citizens of Two Harbors is funded by a 2-year Community Innovation Grant from the Bush Foundation. Although this grant goes beyond the arts, it was secured and meetings are hosted by Arts on Superior.

In Fall 2015 we entered our second year of work after turning things over to smaller Action Groups for the Summer months.  At our September Kick-off event, The Largest Drum Circle in the world, the 50 folks who joined us to participate in a global drumming for peace also were able to find out about those Summer Action Groups.  Our October Swopportunity re-use exchange was the result of these Action Groups.  October’s ReVisioning community meeting was devoted to hearing about the work and successes of these groups.

Action Groups formed as ReVisioning TH invited Two Harbors residents to “give our ideas legs” by joining Action Groups based on ideas that emerged in the first 6 months of community forums. FIND Action Group details and most recent history at the end of this article.

So how did we arrive at this point of action?  Through community forum discussions for six months.

We began in November 2014 with a community forum that challenged us to define this ReVisioning project clearly.  Through that discussion, we got this description:

“ReVisioning Two Harbors is a project of and by the citizens of Two Harbors.  This project gives everyone a chance to voice their opinions about needs and challenges in Two Harbors thanks to a Bush Foundation Community Innovation grant. Through education, training, and organization this grant helps communities move in a direction towards improving the local economy, social structures and cultural offerings.”

December’s meeting zeroed in on that word “Innovation” in our grant title.  Community members present created a timeline of Two Harbors innovations from the 60s to the present day.  We then identified the innovations that had sustained themselves over time, and those that had not.  Our “harvest” in that discussion was two lists:  obstacles to sustaining innovation, and success strategies for sustaining innovations.

We found that single-person driven projects tended to drop away over time, whereas projects that drew enthusiastic collaborators had good survival rates over the long haul.

Sustaining Innovation: Obstacles/Strategies

Sustaining Innovation: Obstacles/Strategies

In January, the group decided to invite Greg Wright, Executive Director of Grand Marais’ North House Folk School, to speak to us about how that organization sustained itself and grew over the long haul in Grand Marais.  This meeting was a watershed for ReVisioning Two Harbors:  50 folks showed up, listened to Greg, and engaged in lively small-group discussions afterward comparing Grand Marais to Two Harbors (two very different communities), seeing what thoughts Greg’s presentation on Grand Marais gave us about Two Harbors.

GregWright

What emerged were views from a wide variety of residents, from business owners to Chamber of Commerce and City Council representatives to food farmers to retired folks to families raising children in Two Harbors.  Many comments in the large-group sharing that followed looked at economic challenges in Two Harbors, noticing that Grand Marais had found enough collaboration to focus as a community on tourism as a revenue source for their town.  By branding themselves as the Arts destination of the North Shore, Greg’s story revealed, Grand Marais had evolved to pulling in 10 million dollars of tourist trade annually.  Grand Marais might be a different community, but it had this in common with Two Harbors:  economic challenges when old industries dwindled in their town.  Two Harbors’ economic challenges took the front seat in our list of challenges to our city.

In February, we dived into small-group “cafe-style” discussions zeroing in on possible solutions to our economic challenges in Two Harbors.  4 people volunteered to host a table around an idea that might address our city’s challenges.  Tables around Green City, Town of Sculpture, Attracting Conventions, and Creative City Branding hosted 3 rounds of different visitors to discuss their topic.  Table hosts found that discussing in small groups uncovered many helpful ideas.  Participants took notes on large papers spread on the cafe tables. Each host brought home their note paper harvest of ideas.  Below find Green Team and Attracting Convention notes:

Feb Green table notes              FebConventionTable

At the end of February’s meeting, we threw out the challenge of finding one idea that Two Harbors residents could all get behind that might address our economic challenges in a broad collaboration.  In March, we  hosted a world cafe revolving small table discussion, with every table brainstorming ideas that our entire community could get behind as a focus.  What emerged was a focus on Lake Superior and our waterfront as a distinctive asset to our residents and visitors alike.  Each table was filled with notes on ways to attract visitor and resident traffic to our beautiful waterfront to revitalize our town and our economy:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

This brought us to April, with a Spring challenge to take action.  April’s gathering noticed the recent resolution by the Two Harbors City Council declaring Two Harbors a GreenSteps city, committed to finding best practices to make our city more environmentally conscious and “green.”  What doable next step could we take to support this?  The group decided to host the Sonju Trail Cleanup on May 30, and we began planning that action.

In May’s meeting, we finalized plans for the Cleanup – see our home page for your invitation to join us!

May’s discussion also polled the folks present, asking which ideas emerging from our first 5 discussions were they willing to take action on this summer?  Here is the harvest, including both ideas coming out of ReVisioning discussions, and actions already begun in Two Harbors that address Two Harbors’ current challenges.   Notice two themes in this list:  using the waterfront/lake shore as a focus, and working together.

ReVisioning Two Harbors sprang into action mode on May 30, as 20 people gathered to help give our Sonju Hike/Bike trail a Spring Cleanup. Piling bags of trash alongside objects that ranged from scrap metal and paint cans to a car seat, these folks demonstrated their love for the trail with concrete action.

ReVisioning then used its June meeting to shift into small-group mode for the summer. “We’ve heard a lot of great ideas at all these meetings,” observed one attendee. “Now we need some action!” So ReVisioning did not have a July or August forum, instead handing the reins to Summer Action Groups born out of the first 8 months of community forums.

Each Summer Action Group was organized and run by participants. Active Groups include:

Community Swap – already secured the County Fairgrounds for a swap Aug 28-29;

Creative Family Play Space – designing sculptural play space with boat/train themes;

Green City – getting community energy independence info to residents;

Posting Shipping News on Hwy 61 – to encourage tourist traffic down to the harbor;

Downtown Storefront Revitalization – currently looking at a mural project;

Geocaching Family Activity – giving residents and visitors a family fun option;

Sonju Trail Cleanup – monitoring trail, cleaning up as needed through season;

Walking Tours Group – live storytelling walking tours using 2 scripts already developed:  Two Harbors Railroad History, and Lake Superior Shipping Tales.

Bikes in the City – repairing old bikes to make available to tourists to stop and ride  (this group had no takers last summer, but is still an idea we’re talking about).

Anyone is welcome to join these working groups.  Simply Email revisioningth@gmail.com to connect with your group.

Other volunteer opportunities ReVisioning folks are participating in:

AGE TO AGE activities, sponsored by Lake Superior Community Education – activities uniting all ages.  Find out more on FB- https://www.facebook.com/TwoHarborsAgeToAge

Two Harbors KTWH Community Radio Group – Join the group that’s rockin’ and went on the air this summer.  Create a program you’d like to host; volunteer to be in the next Radio Play fundraiser. Help connect our community.  This local non-commercial community radio initiative has been mentioned at every ReVisioning meeting so far!   More info at ktwn.org or Facebook Two Harbors Community Radio page.  Contact them at 218.834.2247 or THCommRadio@gmail.com

Over the summer, groups worked independently.  The second weekend in July, ReVisioning Two Harbors hosted a table at this year’s Heritage Days festival to introduce the Action Groups to the larger community.  One class reunion raised money for the Downtown Storefront Revitalization group, who went on to network with artists and the Lake County Historical Society to clean a vacant storefront window on 1st Ave and Waterfront Drive, converting it to a Phantom Gallery over the summer, and now posting historic photos of downtown Two Harbors in the window.

In Sept. 2015, ReVisioning kicked things off with a drum circle for peace in Riverview park, joining the World’s Largest Drum Circle.  New friends joined us from as far away as the Twin Cities and Silver Bay.

 

Oct 16-17 Community Swapportunity Poster

Oct 16-17 Community Swapportunity Poster

At our October meeting, ReVisioning Action groups shared their activities to date:  The “Swopportunity” Community Swap event from the Green City action group was a HUGE success, recycling many usable items to new homes and perhaps involving more people in town than any other single project we’ve seen. Green City shared future action ideas. The Posting Shipping News, Artful Playground Space, and Walking Tours groups also shared progress and plans. Signup sheets gathered more names for the Sonju Trail Cleanup group. Special guests from KTWH Community Radio updated us on their current programming and opportunities since going on the air. It was exciting to hear about so much community action in Two Harbors.

The Downtown Revitalization group shared their success in transforming downtown storefronts into a phantom gallery for Heritage Days. That group has selected historic photos of Two Harbors from the archives of Lake County Historical Society, and is now raising funds to print these photos in large format for hanging in downtown storefront windows. Each print costs $125 to reproduce. If you would like to support this project, please mail a check to Arts on Superior, PO Box 185, TH MN 55616. ReVisioning Two Harbors has given this group a matching grant of $150, so your contribution will be doubled.

Our Dec 14 2015 ReVisioning meeting was cancelled due to weather, but included an invitation to send ideas for ReVisioning’s new year to our Guest Blog on this website.  To submit a “What’s Next?” idea for our group, send your blog article of up to one page to revisioningth@gmail.com.

Our Feb 18 ReVisioning meeting heard from active action groups and invited more action ideas from newcomers in a discussion that included updates from the Beautifying Downtown/Public Art group that has been doing great work posting historic photographs in vacant downtown Two Harbors storefronts.  Donations are still being accepted for this project.  A new project this group is pursuing now is a downtown Two Harbors mural.  John McGregor, owner of North Shore Architectural Antiques and the entire old Mercantile building on 2nd Avenue and 7th Street, offered a wall of his building as a site for this mural.

We also heard of the challenges being met and overcome by the Posting Shipping News Group as they investigate ways to alert visiting tourists to the opportunity of observing a working harbor in Two Harbors.  Challenges of this project include partnering with organizations/merchants in town, visioning ways to get the info to tourists, and dealing with unpredictable boat arrival/departure times that need frequent updating.

We discussed possible times for our Spring Sonju Trail cleanup, noting the possibility of having that or another event on or near Earth Day which falls this year on Friday, April 22.  We also noted that  weather could make April too cold, icy, or muddy for the trail cleanup date.

Finally, Angela Schubert spoke eloquently of the possibility of a weekly gathering of artists, readers, and community members to socialize and do their art or craft in a friendly public setting.  This idea has come up since our earliest meetings: we need a place to gather/congregate.  So our ReVisioning meeting concluded by looking at the Age to Age’s space on the West side of the Community Center as a possible site for such weekly gatherings.  Many thought this space perfect, with its smaller round tables that encourage discussion.  We can book this room through the Community Education’s Age to Age program.

Re-Visioning Two Harbors’ March 24 community forum with speaker Erika Mock was fabulous!  Mock spoke about her work organizing the Phantom Galleries project in Superior, WI.  Accompanied by photos of gallery spaces and exhibits, she shared the successes, failures, and discoveries during her time with this successful partnership between artists, community, and businesses in Superior.  Their “Phantom Gallery” exhibits included posting art in vacant storefronts to be visible by passing street traffic, and holding evening gallery exhibit times where patrons could stroll into these spaces to enjoy art and music. Many of the vacant sites hosting these Phantom Galleries in Superior were subsequently rented or sold.

Those present participated in a lively discussion with Erika after on ways the city of Superior WI has supported this venture; how Phantom Gallery Superior’s 5-year plan helped them maintain focus; what worked/didn’t work; and the energy/synergy that was generated as the community, business owners, artists, and the City worked together to create a program in Superior that helped them all.  Two Harbors ideas discussed after Erika’s presentation included a mural downtown which could involve students and volunteers from town under the direction of a lead artist,  and adapting phantom galleries for Two Harbor’s timeline, which may mean more frequent exhibit changes in tourist season.  For those who missed the meeting, we made an audio recording, sharable upon request – email revisioningth@gmail.com for access to that.  KTWH may also air a portion of Erika’s talk on the air.

ReVisioning Two Harbors’ April 26 meeting began planning this year’s Sonju Trail Spring cleanup, which will be Saturday, June 4, 9:30-11:30 am, meeting at Lakeview Park pavilion, 1st St and 3rd Av, Two Harbors. Wear appropriate clothing, including good footwear and long pants in case you go into the wooded portions along trail.  Rain date is Sunday, June 5, 1-3 pm.

This year’s goal is to clean up not just the Lighthouse Point portions of the trail, but also the newer trail extension which includes the bike/walk path loop North into town.  Volunteers are needed! To organize a team from your neighborhood, workplace, or faith community, or to help distribute flyers for the event, contact Julie Hukriede at lksuperiorgal@gmail.com.

JOIN US for this event – Come out and enjoy the trail with your family and neighbors on June 4!

 

 

 

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