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Rafala Green: Sculptor/Public Art Creator

published on September 13, 1994
in Skyway News

As the mother of seven, grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother of one, sculptor Rafala Green knows all about raising kids. As the designer of Minneapolis' Phillips Neighborhood Gateways Project— a shining symbol of community cooperation and the creativity of youths— she's put that knowledge of childrearing into making public art. "It's the process, not the product," she tells everyone.

Last June, when Green got a site visit from National Endowment for the Arts chairwoman Jane Alexander, she took it all in stride. "I hope it's not just this year's outfit," she told a Star Tribune reporter.

Those eight words pounded home the message that community-driven art should provide more than a public relations opportunity for politicos. For Green and the economically and socially distressed Phillips neighborhood, it's been a rewarding struggle, one that shows the power of the human spirit in overcoming obstacles.

Two years ago, Green's gateway design won the Minneapolis Arts Commission's approval after it was initially rejected for budget reasons. All the construction for the park has been done off-site, adding the project challenges. Last year, after four of the park's 20-ton benches were put into place, all work was halted and the benches sat in limbo, waiting until last spring for another construction site. Last summer, youths and artistic mentors placed mosaic designs made of stone into five 40-foot paths that will eventually lead to the center of the park.

The process ends in the fall of 1995, when the paths and Antonio Gaudi-inspired benches will be installed on the corner of Chicago and Franklin avenues in Minneapolis, turning what was once the site of a problem liquor store into a symbol of hope and cooperation for the Phillips neighborhood.

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david southgate
writing for living.