Whenever Dee Bjork visits another community, her hometown of Faribault immediately comes to mind. Her reaction isn’t one of jealousy or envy, but gratitude. “We have an amazing downtown,” she said. “I’m always in awe of Faribault. For what we have, given our size. It’s remarkable.”
Dee and her sisters are a big part of that. They’ve dubbed themselves the Renegade Gardeners because they’ve taken over a couple of derelict spaces in Faribault—dumping grounds for junk and tires—and landscaped them into vibrant ones. They see potential where others don’t and take the initiative to make their vision a reality.
Maintaining these garden takes a lot of work, and they hope to eventually turn over the maintenance responsibilities to business owners. Until then, it’s not unusual to find a neighbor or friend who’s cleaning it up. The Second Street garden is their second project, and when they heard there were financial resources through Artists on Main Street, they were eager to apply and get involved.
Dee is the coordinator and generator of ideas. She provided the vision for the project and worked with her sisters and other community members to enact it. Artists on Main Street provided the final spark, providing the funds to help push the ideal project to completion. Much of the garden itself had already been planted, but they used the money to make the space go further. Dee used the money to create a series of colored panels, collaborating with a local artist in town.
Her sister, Beth, used a separate grant to create some metal work using found-objects. Beth fell ill during the project, but was still determined to complete her creations. Although she passed away before she could see it through, her sisters took on the mission of finishing Beth’s work.
In so many ways, the Second Street Garden is a space whose current meaning extends far beyond its original one. Dee and her sisters have taken the vacant space and imprinted deep layers of significance. “When I drive by, I’m overwhelmed—I never imagined what we’d be able to do in this little space.” Dee’s always excited to see people who live in the new nearby apartment building using the garden. She’s always wanted it to be a welcoming space where people can spend time. But to her personally, the garden is a memorial and living testament to her sister, Beth. “We’re proud to see where her hands worked. Her memory will always be there.”