MINOT_DEC

Minot has been known as the “Magic City” since it first sprang up, seemingly overnight, in the late 1800s. Over the last decade, an oil boom has brought many new arrivals, generating a severe shortage of affordable housing. This shortage was compounded in June 2011 by a flood of the Souris River, the worst in Minot’s history, which damaged more than 4,000 homes, many beyond repair. The flood left approximately a third of Minot without homes.

Minot now faces the dual challenges of re-establishing its long-term residents while creating appropriate space for the influx of oil-related workers, and it aspires to do both while maintaining Minot’s unique identity and cultural integrity. Artspace Projects has been welcomed as a key partner in this process.

The new 34-unit artist live/work project at the corner of Central Avenue and Main Street in the heart of downtown Minot will also include about 5,400 square feet of commercial space, some of which is expected to be dedicated to a Native American museum and gift shop. The community has rallied behind the project: local businesses and individuals have contributed more than $400,000 to the planning effort. This, coupled with other critical support, including foundations such as ArtPlace, helps make these projects a reality.

ArtPlace talked to Artspace Vice President of Property Development Heidi Zimmer Kurtze about challenges the project has faced thus far building community support.

ARTPLACE: What has been the thorniest issue you’ve faced to date? How have you dealt with it?

HEIDI: This is a conservative community and some members of the community and council members saw any funding for this project as a “total waste of tax dollars” and/or “money going to starving artist-wannabe punks instead of hard working families.” Though those voices were a small minority, it was a vocal group and there were some pretty nasty blogs and article comments every time the project was in the paper. We asked our local partners to write letters to the editor clarifying the false reports/comments made – especially since none of the small funding we were requesting was city funding; it was federal funds that the city was allocating and for a community in desperate need of permanent affordable housing. We developed a strong communications plan and gave our local partners talking points for when these issues arose.

Some of the naysayers may never change their mind, but the proof will be in the outcome of the project and the successful transformation that has already begun. The best way to educate is through demonstration and proven results of quality successful building filled with successful, contributing members of the community – who also happen to be artists.

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