Minneapolis City Planner, Joe Bernard and Creative CityMaking Artist, Witt Siasoco and their Mobile Tracing Unit in action on Central Avenue in NE Minneapolis.

Minneapolis City Planner, Joe Bernard and Creative CityMaking Artist, Witt Siasoco and their Mobile Tracing Unit in action on Central Avenue in NE Minneapolis.

Creative CityMaking is a project that brings artists and Minneapolis City planners together for year-long collaborations, with the goal of providing both with new tools for working with diverse communities. The project also strives to engage artists in critical thinking and art making around important City and urban issues.

Artplace spoke with Creative CityMaking participant, Minneapolis City Planner, Joe Bernard, and asked him to reflect on his experience as part of an artist/planner team for Creative CityMaking. He is partnered with Creative CityMaking artists Witt Siasoco and together they are working on the Historic Capstone Study, an effort to analyze and assess the combined findings of historic survey work conducted over the past 10 years.

ArtPlace: What has been your best event or the most rewarding experience you have had during the course of your ArtPlace grant? Describe how this came about and why it was special.

Bernard: Witt and I are really just getting going on the implementation of our various initiatives, so I’m anticipating lots of exciting and rewarding experiences to come. So far just the simple act of collaborating with a new partner that has a fresh perspective has been rewarding in and of itself. Witt has brought a ton of energy to our work, and I feel things are really humming along nicely. I’m excited about all of the things we’re working on, but if I had to point to one thing it would be Witt’s concept of the mobile tracing unit, a way to involve community in observing and documenting historic architecture in the city through asking people to trace the outline of buildings on transparencies mounted to a frame on the street. When he first sent me an email with a conceptual mockup of the rig, I immediately jumped up from my desk and showed everyone in our offices what Witt was planning. Instant energy came from that email. It’s proven to be an intriguing concept for engaging the public and we’re continuing to hone the process, so I’m very much looking forward to cultivating this new attempt at connecting with our communities.

ArtPlace: What lesson did you learn from this success?

Bernard: In all honesty, we’re still trying to figure this one out. The first attempt at using the mobile tracing unit went well, but it was clear there are some wrinkles to iron out. It proved successful as a strategy for engaging some normally underrepresented populations. We had non-English speakers and youth participating in the tracing exercise in addition to the more traditionally represented stakeholders. Witt and I learned that we’ll need to formalize the experience a little bit more to make sure we are making the exercise as valuable as possible for both stakeholders and the City. Part of what I think brings people into the mobile tracing unit is the spontaneous aspect of it, so we also want to make sure not to lose that as we try and drill down to how we collect and share information with the participants.

Minneapolis City Planner, Joe Bernard and Creative CityMaking Artist, Witt Siasoco and their Mobile Tracing Unit in action on Central Avenue in NE Minneapolis.

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