As Intermedia Arts' Creative Citymaking draws to a close, the year-long project will showcase work by local artists, in collaboration with Minneapolis planners, in an exhibit that showcases how art can be used to spur civic engagement. The project, which was funded by a $325,000 grant from the national collaborative funding group ArtPlace, teamed artists up with city planners as a way to increase participation from diverse communities in the process of making decisions about several different neighborhoods.
Artist and city planners team up for Creative Citymaking Project
The exhibit, now on view, tells the story of all the work that has been done on the Creative Citymaking Project over the past year. This includes teams of artists using art to engage community members in the long-range plans for different neighborhoods. Three artists from Juxtaposition Arts -- Roger Cummings, Caroline Kent, and Samuel Babatunde Ero-Phillips -- joined planner Brian Schaffer on the Linden Hills and Dinkytown Small Area Plans. In north Minneapolis, photographer Wing Young Huie and theater artist Ashley Hanson joined city planner Jim Voll. For the Southwest Area LRT Station Area Plan, artist Diane Willow teamed with city planner Paul Mogush and Beth Elliott. Finally, for the historic Capstone study, artist and designer Witt Siasoco was paired with planner Joe Bernard.
The exhibit outlines the different initiatives, and also includes various art objects that were used. The show highlights the successes, as well as the initiatives that didn't work so well -- particularly in regard to the political uncertainty of the SW LRT Area Plan.
"I learned a lot, because I didn't know much about the city urban planning office," says Huie, one of the artists who worked on the Penn Avenue area plan in north Minneapolis. He says he set out to ask what people in the community wanted, as well as "who decides what the questions are?" he says.
What Huie realized was that while he and fellow artist Hanson work in different forms (photography, theater), they both use artistic tools for commuity engagement.
Much of the work they set out to do was to create an alternative to traditional forms of community engagement, such as public meetings or online surveys. "With the people we talked to -- academics or other artists or community activists -- a lot of what people would say is 'meetings are boring,' or 'the city decides what they are going to do and have a community meeting to see if there's opposition.' People would say that those who go to meetings are those with the biggest gripe or have the most time on their hands," Huie says.
What the artists found was that a lot of people have never been to a public meeting, which opens questions about citizenship, and how government can reach the people who don't traditionally become involved in the process of decision-making. "We were really trying to invigorate and re-invent the community meeting and survey process."
Huie's group ultimately created nine engagement tools, which varied from things like theater at bus stops to ping-pong games, all aimed at getting feedback about the neighborhood in a creative way. For example, in the ping-pong game, participants were asked to write down a question on a ping pong ball, and put it into a box. They then chose a ping-pong ball with a query someone else wrote, and played a the game with someone trying to answer the question. They would then write their response on a chalkboard.
Mobile Engagement Theater
By going out into communities, Huie says they were able to get comments from people who normally wouldn't fill out a survey or go to a community meeting. "The way data is collected is just as important as what the data says," Huie explains. "The artistic process and the urban planning process are both ultimately about problem solving. But who decides what the problems are?"
Caroline Kent, who worked on the Linden Hills and Dinkytown small area plan, says her group worked especially because there was a whole team of artists collaborating with the city planner. "That was a real strength," she says. "Working as a team, we were way more resourceful. We had more hands and feet."
One of the initiatives Kent's group came up with was a mobile engagement theater, where Samuel Babatunde Ero-Phillips was doing outreach verbally, getting students from the University to come and talk about the Dinkytown plan while Kent worked on the zine survey and Roger Cummings worked on the T-shirt program. "The gears were all working together," Kent says. "We really had a momentum."
Kent's group ended up getting 806 surveys completed, about 80 to 90 percent of which had never informed public planning before.
Creative Citymaking Exhibit
Through January 19
2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis