Creative Hot Spot

March 16, 2015
Molly Reichert (left) and Andrea Johnson.

Winter in Minnesota can be rough. When lows hover near zero, it can be a challenge to venture outdoors, let alone prioritize wellness. So, with the help of their students, professors Molly Reichert and Andrea Johnson created a solution: a mobile sauna.

They describe the project, dubbed Little Box Sauna, as an example of what's called creative placemaking--an emerging field that works to build vibrant, distinctive, and sustainable communities through the arts by engaging artists and others in building social fabric and local economies.

"We see [it] as a natural fit for building community in Minnesota in the winter," say the pair.

The sauna took to the road in late February with stops in the City of Bloomington, where visitors could socialize in a way based on Finnish and other cultural traditions. Johnson and Reichert are currently shopping for the sauna's next location.

Colleagues and students throughout the U's College of Design helped at many stages of the process.

"During my mid-semester crunch … it was a perfect break to chop-saw some cedar. Even if it's not proven, I'm pretty sure the smell of fresh cut wood is therapeutic," says student Molly Dalsin.

Johnson and Reichert hope that visitors will leave the sauna with a sense of rejuvenation and calm.

"We want people to shed their devices and cares and connect on a human level in the sauna. It's a place to find peace, healing, and community."

And all this not in spite of, but because of the cold.