Intermedia Arts gets $1M grant to pair artists with city of Minneapolis

Artists have made their marks all over Minneapolis. Now they’ll be doing it for City Hall.

Intermedia Arts has received $1 million from the Detroit-based Kresge Foundation for a “creative city-making” project. The south Minneapolis multidisciplinary center will pair artists with city workers to come up with original ideas for neighborhood improvement and citizen engagement.

Intermedia, known for its community outreach, will select artists to work with several city departments. The project is an expansion of a center pilot program last year that pooled the talents of city planners and artists for small-area plans in Dinkytown, Linden Hills, Penn Avenue on the North Side and a southwest Minneapolis LRT station.

The collaborations were particularly successful at boosting participation by people not prone to attending community meetings or taking online surveys. In Dinkytown, artists rode a bike with a tiny hand-cranked theater in a box attached, inviting residents to fill out blank pages of ’zines with their wishes for the area. Nearly 40 percent of the data gathered for that neighborhood came from that process, creative-leadership director Wendy Morris said.

“They used highly visual means of attracting interest, and now we’re hearing from a lot of new voices, especially youth,” she said.

Mayor Betsy Hodges called the grant “an extraordinary opportunity to use the creativity of artists to bring fresh thinking to the way we do business. Art engages people in ways that other efforts do not, and it can help the city run better.”

Kresge Foundation President Rip Rapson was a Minneapolis city official in the 1990s, as chief aide to then-Mayor Don Fraser. He said applying the creative city-making concept to Minneapolis will demonstrate that it is “a national pioneer in exploring how city government should work with the community.”

The 2013 pilot project was funded with $325,000 from national grant giver ArtPlace. Results are on display in an exhibit called “This Is Our City!” through March 8 at Intermedia, 2822 Lyndale Av. S.

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