Joan Vorderbruggen has a strong vision for her hometown of Minneapolis, which has been shaped from her years of services as both a nurse and community organizer. She sees Hennepin Avenue's potential to become a destination that promotes the health, well-being, and enjoyment of the diverse and multi-cultural community of Downtown Minneapolis. Now, as the Director of Public Art and Placemaking for Hennepin Theatre Trust, she is making her vision come to life with a program called “5 to 10 on Hennepin.”
With the help of a 2016 Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant, Joan and a passionate, collaborative team of community outreach groups, artists, performers, and volunteers have been uniting the community through a series of weekly pop-up events and physical enhancements along a five-block stretch of the street.
Minneapolis MAD DADS, Kulture Klub Collaborative, and Youth Link are organizations that provide valuable outreach services to youth and adults experiencing homelessness, and they immediately became involved after Joan observed that needs of the community were far from being met.
“This community of people is not afforded positive activities and many of them are visibly suffering,” Joan explained. “Creating a space for them to be seen, increasing capacity for services and partnerships that benefit them, and creating a positive environment for all art and culture experiences along Hennepin Avenue to take place has become an all-consuming passion for me.”
One of the most visible changes along Hennepin Ave. is a vibrant new mural that adorns two walls along the side of Harbor of Lights Center. Joan and two local artists collaborated with those receiving services from the Center to come up with a design that would instill a renewed sense of hope and love.
At a 5 to 10 event to celebrate the completion of the mural and culmination of their Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant, Joan knew this initiative was having significant impacts on the community.
“Gerald, an older gentleman who frequented Hennepin Ave., helped clean up the event space that day. It was clear it made him proud to assist,” Joan recounted. “Later that evening during a dance performance, Gerald turned to me with tears welling up in his eyes, as he explained that he never thought he would see something so beautiful take place in that space.”
Do you know a “connector” like Joan in your community?
The Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grants support the creation of spaces and opportunities that build connections and bring people together to strengthen communities for a more resilient future. To learn more about Hennepin Avenue 5 to 10, visit https://www.pps.org/heart-of-the-community/#Hennepin.