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 Intermedia Arts Executive/Artistic Director Theresa Sweetland and asked her to reflect on the past year of the ArtPlace grant.
ARTPLACE: Now that you are all coming to the end of your ArtPlace grant periods take a moment to think over the past year. What advice would you give to the new grantees? How would you encourage new grantees to leverage their ArtPlace grants for maximum effect?
SWEETLAND: I’m surprised as I look back at the last year and note that the time has gone by so quickly! Our project is an entirely new initiative that has very few examples to draw from nationally or internationally. We embarked on an incredibly ambitious journey to build a new project, a new partnership, and a new training platform into order to more deeply engage the community in the planning for their own futures. We spent 6-8 months building the solid foundation that we needed to give the artists and planners the support and tools to be successful together. As we waited for the weather in Minnesota to cooperate and summer to begin, we are just now really seeing the results of the immense amount of time, energies, challenges and epiphanies that our team has gone through together to get this new initiative off the ground. It is exhilarating and at times daunting to think about what comes next after this year and how to sustain the project and the partnerships.
One of my strongest recommendations is to begin to plant the seeds for the future as a core goal in your project from the start. Honestly, from the first planning meeting ask yourself questions like, “What’s next after this year?”, “How will we sustain this work?”, and “What strategic partnerships, relationships, and conversations should we be seeding at this stage in the project?” It is critical to remember that the time will go by quickly and this is exciting and meaningful work that we are doing.
I also encourage grantees to read the writing, research, and conversations that are defining, leading, and challenging the field of creative placemaking from ArtPlace, leading academics, practitioners, organizers, funders, artists and more. There is a stimulating conversation happening nationally that is dealing with questions and concerns around gentrification, outcomes, diversity, and equity which provide a well-rounded context that can guide your work.
The creative placemaking grantees and extended networks are growing and connecting. They are highly diverse and their experience runs deep. Take full advantage of the opportunities to connect with other past and current grantees both in your own community and regionally/nationally. There is great wisdom and lessons learned in this community of practice. In Minneapolis and St Paul, we connected with other local grantees to leverage media attention and to connect with the city to support all of our efforts as an interconnected ecosystem. As the intensity of the project implementation builds, it has made sense to remain networked but also to understand that each project has its own set of goals and will remain unique in its approach. Having this group of other leaders to both formally and informally share a common purpose with has been tremendous.
Finally, ensure that artists are always at the table for the conversations around creative placemaking, your project, and your work. Their creativity is boundless and fuels this work to be unexpected, soulful, provocative and meaningful.