Urban Boat Builders
Urban Boat Builders — Is an intercity non-profit project in collaboration with Saint Paul Public schools and other at-risk youth organizations, and gives students a heads-up start developing skills to take them further in life. www.urbanboatbuilders.org
I was curious when I discovered Urban Boat Builders, in a search for local businesses on Google Maps. Stumbling upon what I thought was a retail urban outfitter in the heart of the intercity, was a youth apprenticeship program. Located in the Midway area of Saint Paul, where I had many experiences as a youth myself, is a bustling corridor between two metropolitan cities, Minneapolis/Saint Paul. So central to the metro development, that in it’s infancy, it nearly became home to the State Capitol of Minnesota, close-by in Merriam Park.
So what could a business called Urban Boat Builders, offer the landlocked metropolitan?
I had to walk in off the side street of the busy Midway Shopping Mall that started sprawling around Montgomery Wards, which once was the “anchor” of this hub. Long gone, replaced by the “Big Box Stores” Target, Kmart, and Rainbow Foods, this mall had a gem in the rough. A place that was making hand made wooden canoes!
The location is tucked under a huge concrete overhang, which shadows it from view. There are no other businesses along the street next to it. No electric sign or placard. You might walk right by and never know it was there. I walked in. Not anything more than a High School’s woodshop classroom, I saw beautiful handmade canoes. A student named Mohammed greeted me. Hello, how are you? I was soon approached by the director Marc Hosmer, tall with a disarming smile. I asked “so what do you do here?
He invited me to the back where the shop office was, and we sat down to talk. He explained they were a non-profit that helped students learn valuable math, teamwork, and vocational woodworking skills that develop , confidence, and provides a positive learning environment for youth, while creating beautiful wooden canoes for sale to the public. I was thrilled to here that. I had just had listened earlier that day on NPR, a highly discouraging story about the state of urban youth and minorities in the city. Such a positive solution was right in front of me. Immediately I offered to help.
“Would it help to get you better noticed on Google Search?” I asked? Certainly a location like this would be easier to find if the Google Maps “See Inside” feature brought up images along the right of the search results, I thought. People are drawn to images more than words today, when scanning the web. “You can embed the virtual tour on your website or Facebook page”, I told him. Marc said they just had a revision of their website recently. We made arrangements for a shoot.
I got back home on the computer and had to laugh out loud when I looked at the site. It had been created by an interactive web development team during The Nerdery’s “Overnight Website Challenge”. I had been at the event a month earlier shooting photos. The Nerdery sponsors this event every year to have interactive agencies create websites free for non-profits that need websites, new or revised. I also attend a WordPress Meet-up at The Nerdery where I later found out the one for Urban Boat Builders had been voted the best, out of dozens created, in that 24 hour jam that weekend. That made me feel extra good, knowing I was helping them also.
You may see the virtual tour on our Facebook Page, “Grey Cloud Studio”.
Also visit www.urbanboatbuilders.org