July’s Wunderkammer: A Recap


July’s Wunderkammer: A Recap

July was a busy month for the Sundance Family Foundation. There were vendors to call, youth to invite, buses to coordinate, and public officials to notify. Once all that was finished, there were posters to make, flyers to print, and one giant hall at the Maplewood Community Center and YMCA to be set up. Why all this commotion? A Wunderkammer, of course!

Before anybody arrives, the space is just a bunch of empty tables waiting to be filled; each is a blank slate where the possibilities are endless. The only rule? Whatever the vendors decide to do with their tables, it must be interactive. The concept of the Wunderkammer comes from the cabinets of interesting curiosities from the Renaissance period in Europe. Therefore, curiosity and exploration are the main priorities.

Before the youth arrive, representatives from Amidon graphics hauled in bright cans of printing ink and a heavy paper jogging machine that aligns paper with vibration. The folks from Dunwoody set up a welding station outside, complete with all the safety gear required to weld on site. McGough Construction brought a wood frame for nail-hammering competitions, while Dayton Rogers brought a specially designed stamping machine to demonstrate their process. There was plenty to get ready.

But once it’s up and running, all the effort that went into planning the Wunderkammer was clearly worth it. The first way to tell is the sound; when walking into the Wunderkammer for the first time, hundreds of visitors were greeted with the sounds of laughter, chatter, and–of course—hammering. Youth encouraged each other as they stacked boxes, worked with small machines, and practiced electrical wiring. They clustered around the photo booth, too, where they got the chance to take group photos themed with and  paired to the Twin Cities tech & training vendors de jour.

Beyond the commotion of encouragement and exploration, youth were asking questions, too. The Wunderkammer is not a typical job fair, it’s the fair job fair. At these events, questions are encouraged and vendor/youth engagement is a must do.  No one expects youth to know about jobs or fields before they’ve arrived. Though all vendors involved brought information about their fields and finding a job or training with their company or post secondary program their primary job was simply to share possibilities. Many of the vendors represented fields that many people aren’t aware of, at least not in our day-to-day lives. We do not necessarily see welding in action, or witness metal stamping, or watch the business cards and pamphlets we use be printed. And yet, each of these industries creates items that become a part of our world.

With the Wunderkammer, Sundance is bridging a knowledge gap by making many of these fascinating career paths more visible, and therefore more possible. We are also bridging the hiring gap, by introducing employers to young, talented workforce- ready youth of color whom manufacturers and industry specialists may not have had the privilege of meeting at previous job fairs.

The Wunderkammer was well-attended by over 200 youth representing YSE organizations, schools, and community groups ; Maplewood’s Mayor, Nora Slawik, and a representative from Senator Tina Smith’s office attended for a walkthrough along with several other community and business representatives Further, the city of Maplewood sent a film crew, and produced a striking video about the event which you can watch below.