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Teens bring life to Payne Ave. parking lot
Hoping to bring some activity to an unflattering city-owned parking lot on Payne Avenue, Dayton's Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services teamed up with teens from the East Side and Minneapolis to bring some life and music to the open pavement.
The parking lot in question sits behind a bus stop at the corner of Payne and York avenues. Encouraged by a consulting firm they were working with to improve the vibrancy of Payne Avenue, DBNHS decided to put together some live musical performances to get youth involved in positive energy in the area.
Jim Erchul, director of DBNHS, explained that the organization picked the spot because it's centrally located, and said to be a problem spot — rumor has it, he said, there's inappropriate behavior going on at the bus stop there.
It also helped that the city provided funding for the concerts and happens to own the parking lot.
The performance was organized by Farrington Llewellyn, who helped four teenagers from the East Side and Minneapolis' North Side to put together the concerts.
The kids sang, performed hip-hop songs, recited poetry, danced and played music.
The activity came out of some work Llewellyn had been doing in North Minneapolis, hanging out in problem areas at odd hours of the night, giving out free food, and eventually booking talent to perform there.
He called the events "Meat and Greets," since often the food being handed out was hot dogs.
This summer, he decided to do the events with teenagers, "kids from the two neighborhoods with the most stigma in the Twin Cities," he said — Minneapolis' north side, and St. Paul's East Side.
So, he hired four teens aged 17 to 19 using grant money, and taught them how to run sound, do promotion, take photos, and book events.
The kids did three performances on Payne Avenue, and three on the north side of Minneapolis at Penn and Lowry avenues during the month of September.
The kids got $400 for their efforts, and a taste of putting on live shows.
The effort was part of a project funded by St. Paul Cultural STAR funds, a grant from Wells Fargo, and suport from the Local Initiative Support Corporation, a non-profit dedicated to helping community residents transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy and sustainable communities of choice and opportunity.
Other sponsors included the West Broadway Business & Area Coalition, Metro Transit, Hennepin County, Cleveland Neighborhood Association and Onyx Cycles.
Though they're wrapped up with the East Side activities for the summer, they're doing one last performance on Oct. 17 in Minneapolis. Llewellyn's hoping there will be more performances on the East Side next spring.
— Patrick Larkin