Taking it to the Streets
Many other Mac students have been involved in Frogtown projects. Professor John Kim’s class “Community New Media for Social Change” collaborated with Frogtown Farm and the neighborhood to produce audio podcasts, video shorts, social media, and photo documentation. In Professor Christie Manning’s course “Psychology of Sustainable Behavior” students designed a variety of communication materials including a GIS map to demonstrate the lack of green space and an interactive story performed for elementary school students.
“I’m interested in how inequality manifests itself in space,” says Devany.
Urban geography major Caroline Devany ’13 volunteered with St. Paul’s Frogtown Gardens and turned that experience into a studio art project, a summer job, and an internship. Now she envisions a future combining urban design, urban planning and social justice.
“I’m interested in how inequality manifests itself in space,” says Devany, “and how to mitigate that inequity.” Frogtown had been identified by the city as a neighborhood in need of more green space. In March, thanks to the work of Frogtown Gardens and many friends and neighbors including Devany, the Wilder Foundation has agreed to sell a 12-acre parcel to the Trust for Public Land at a price of $2.2 million—less than half the appraised value. Proposed plans for the urban park include Frogtown Farm, a demonstration farm; a recreation area; and a nature sanctuary with mature trees.
“It’s a myth that parks are superfluous, attractive spaces,” says Devany, who was delighted by the news. “They are an integral part of a neighborhood fabric.”
Devany’s involvement began when she took on advocacy research for Frogtown Gardens as a service learning project in Professor Dan Trudeau’s “Urban Social Geography” course. Devany, who also does studio art, designed posters and seed packets for a neighborhood bean-growing project.
Last summer, Devany worked with Frogtown Gardens to research urban farms, investigating farm self-sufficiency and the function that urban farms can play. After a semester’s study away program in Detroit, São Paulo, Cape Town and Hanoi, Devany is back at Macalester doing an internship that continues her work.
The focus of her for-credit internship is the positive economic benefit of the new park. In addition to air pollution mediation, storm water control, and community cohesion, there are also anticipated benefits in terms of increased market value of homes in the vicinity. “I’m working with Professor Trudeau,” says Devany, “but Professor Laura Smith in geography and Professor Sarah West in economics have also been incredibly helpful.” Devany is developing data about changes in market value and using GIS to map the area.
This summer Devany, supported by a Mellon Curricular Pathways grant, plans to explore how community-based organizations such as Frogtown Gardens initiate changes in physical space. “I’ve met so many interesting people—city government planners, private consultants, and community organizers,” says Devany, “and it has really solidified my interest in urban design.”