Live Like A VISTA: Stevie Twining

Stevie Twining helped organize Better Central Entrance, a creative placemaking event focused on egaging the public in reconstruction of Central Entrance in Duluth.

My name is Stevie Twining and I am the Community Development Coordinator VISTA with Zeitgeist Center for Arts and Community!

I graduated from UMD in December 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and no real idea of what I wanted to do. I was working a job that mixed cooking and customer service while running my small photography business on the side and was content to stay in that position for as long as it took to find a job in my field. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and I was temporarily laid off. When I returned to work in May, I decided to look for something new. I was in rough financial shape and was frustrated with the way our country was responding to COVID-19. It seemed like the injustices that had been present all along were clarified and exacerbated by the pandemic.

My path to AmeriCorps was a bit different from most; instead of relocating to a new community, I found several AmeriCorps opportunities in my home city of Duluth. There were a lot of reasons to stay in Duluth, ranging from practical issues like the lease I’d just signed to bigger ideas like my love for the arts community here and my desire to do something good for my city.

I applied to a few AmeriCorps VISTA positions at local organizations and in the end chose Zeitgeist Center for Arts and Community. I was so excited to be able to combine my love of art with my drive to improve my community and I’m still excited to continue to grow and  learn as I work with Zeitgeist in its community development endeavors.

I’m only a few months into my service with Zeitgeist, but I’ve had the opportunity to work on some awesome projects and connect with incredible community members! Something I am most proud of in the months that I’ve been with Zeitgeist is my work organizing a panel on Indigenous food sovereignty and health. Through Zeitgeist’s Zinema 2.0 streaming service, we were able to offer the film Gather, a documentary which does a beautiful job of explaining the history of food sovereignty and the persecution of Indigenous peoples, free of charge. Alongside Gather (which I cannot recommend highly enough!), I was able to help organize a panel of incredible Indigenous women from organizations in Duluth and the Twin Cities (including AICHO, Dream of Wild Health, and Fond du Lac) to connect the concept of Indigenous food sovereignty with the work these organizations have been doing to promote health through food and other avenues. Zeitgeist received wonderful feedback about the virtual panel and we are hoping to use it as a template for other film discussions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

It has been interesting, to say the least, changing jobs and learning new workplace norms during a pandemic. Through this, I’ve been so lucky to have an AmeriCorps cohort to support me and a host organization that truly cares about its work and its staff’s health and well-being.