It's not where anyone expects to see a clutch of Black and brown city kids with multicolored hair and nose rings walking silently through a labyrinth.

But past the rows of corn, the roadside crosses and the Trump flags off a gravel road in Wright County about 75 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, youngsters pondered the big questions of life as chickens and guinea hens flapped wings and murmured.

"Welcome to Rootsprings," said Signe Harriday, artistic director of Minneapolis' Pillsbury House Theatre. "This is a place where people can come to calm their nervous systems in beautiful nature. It's a sacred space dedicated to liberation and healing."

A sharp thinker and theater-maker, Harriday is best known for working her way through thickets of texts. But she greeted a recent visitor in overalls and sweat beading her brow. She had spent the morning clear-cutting walking paths on the property, located on 36 biodiverse acres in Annandale, Minn.

A rural haven aimed at artists, activists and anyone seeking rejuvenation, Rootsprings was part response to the rawness and trauma exposed by the killing of George Floyd, and the concomitant unrest. And it is one of a number of such projects afoot. St. Paul's Penumbra Theatre, in fact, is expanding its mission to become not just a place for performing arts but also a center of wellness and healing.

Rootsprings has eco trails, a spring-fed lake and three cottages for overnight guests, including a geodesic dome named for science-fiction writer Octavia E. Butler. It also has a retreat center and idyllic natural features.

The lake, called "the sacred pond" by previous owners, is guarded by a stately pair of trumpeter swans. A great blue heron, frozen in a hunt, makes its still, glassy surface look like a painting.

"Here, we can make art and reclaim our relationship with nature," Harriday said.

Rootsprings is rising on land where rejuvenation has been a central focus for decades.

The Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls built the property in 1988, operating it as Clare's Well, a hideaway where one could go for prayers and meditation. The sisters, known for their ministry to immigrant communities and for their work as counselors, therapists and teachers, sold it in 2015 to Daniel and Joan Pauly-Schneider, who continued to own it in the same spirit but rebranded the property Wellsprings Farm.

Last February, the Schneiders sold it to the Rootsprings cooperative — three lesbian couples of color: Harriday and partner Alice Butts; Erin Sharkey and Zoe Hollomon, and Alejandra Tobar Alatriz and Saby Labor.

The collective lives at the property full-time, as it is a working farm with a barn, animals, pear and apple orchards as well as gardens.

Sharkey, a writer, educator and graphic designer, has been a tireless activist for the abolition of slavery in the only constitutional carveout where bondage is permissible — "as punishment for a crime" in the 13th Amendment. She said that tending to the farm is itself restorative.

"The solitude, the land, nature and beauty — we all need these things," Sharkey said. "Everyone deserves this kind of peace and tranquillity."

Sharkey tools around the property in a golf cart, taking visitors on a survey of the different types of topography.

There's prairie, where milkweed thrives for monarch butterflies. The wetlands filter the water for the lake. And the forests are thick with hardwoods.

"Historically, we've not had access to things like this," Sharkey said, savoring the air.

While the co-op members enjoy its amenities full time, Rootsprings hosts guests who come for day retreats or overnight stays.

On a recent weekend, day guests included youngsters brought there by the Irreducible Grace Foundation, founded in St. Paul in 2012 by Darlene Fry and other educators seeking to close the graduation gap by providing resources and opportunities to kids in foster care and transitional housing.

"They can get in touch with their higher selves," Fry said. "We want to help them continue to build resilience."

Fry made the day trip with much of her foundation's team, including artistic director Natalia Davis and program director Jan Mandell, a retired teacher from St. Paul's Central High School.

"I can't tell you how much we appreciate this," Mandell said. "It's a great space to do the work of healing."

Harriday said that the collective is mindful of the safety of its guests. Cellphone service is spotty on the farm, so guests are encouraged to communicate ahead of time so that they are expected.

Rootsprings offers a battery of wellness programs. Guests participate in yoga and quilt-making. Some practice capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art. Others meditate.

It looks and feels like summer camp. But the project is still in process.

"We're in a place of discovery, of listening and learning, so we're truly into what the land is telling us, and not just what we think should be there," Harriday said. "Part of what's so beautiful about this experience is that the dream is already happening. We're already hosting our community, from group retreats to writers' workshops to strategic planning, and care and respite for social-justice warriors."

Ultimately, Harriday said, Rootsprings is a reclamation project from past distress.

"There's a lot of trauma around Black bodies in rural spaces," Harriday said, signaling a history that stretches from slavery to lynching to prison chain gangs. "And we have to get right with all of that in order to go forward."

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390