The Southwest MN Housing Partnership has been busy the last few months, creating teams, defining goals, and evaluating cross regional data to help the organization narrow the geographic emphasis of the ArtPlace CDI grant efforts. In this first blog post, the SWMHP Leadership Team responds to questions from ArtPlace staff regarding these efforts:
What were the biggest surprises and/or most exciting moments during the announcement process and community forum?
SWMHP was thrilled to learn it had become one of the ArtPlace CDI grant recipients. The announcement created a lot of excitement and began the process of forming new relationships and helping our organization to map the assets, connections and resources that would exist for us as we continue our planning journey with communities. The community forum was held on Oct. 9th at the Worthington Memorial Auditorium for Performing Arts, with around 70 in attendance. These individuals represented local, state and national organizations, and were treated to entertainment from artists within the region, including Azteca Dancers and a local harpist.
What questions have been raised for your organization as you have considered cultural asset mapping activities? What are some of the most important values and goals you are considering as you develop and execute a plan for cultural asset mapping?
SWMHP has been challenged in determining how to best utilize cultural asset mapping activities, primarily due to the fact the geographic location(s) of the work was not defined from the beginning; a process the Partnership is still working on, though hopes to have wrapped up within the next month. Defining the geography has been a significant task, due to the fact the SWMHP region covers 30 counties and, within that, over 250 communities of varying degrees of size, demographics and need. The internal leadership team decided to take a two-step approach to cultural asset mapping; first, utilizing a more broad regional asset scan to assist in narrowing down geographic focus, and to identify any potential arts and cultural significant areas/activities/groups previously unknown to SWMHP. The Partnership hired arts consultant Metris to lead the team through these efforts; and through that process became more aware of the resources available to access these types of data sets, while obtaining several categories of arts/cultural significant data across the entire 30 county region.
SWMHP really sees the more detailed cultural asset mapping to take place as part of the community engagement process once geographic areas are selected. Understanding this is a way to engage cross-cultural participation in community planning efforts, the Partnership is cognizant that defining what this process means across different cultural groups is key to its success. Therefore, once communities are defined, time will need to be spent identifying the various group in which to engage, and mechanisms to best engage these groups; particularly if there are language or other cultural barriers to be overcome.
What have been some of the most important or useful ideas you’ve encountered in the first few months of the program? What are you looking forward to learning or tackling as you move forward?
One of the more interesting topics that has come about as the leadership team works through the challenge of defining project locations from a large geographic area is how to best share each other’s stories to capture energy and momentum across the entire region. If we are still discovering the unique and exciting arts and cultural events, ideas and identities in the region, certainly there are others who are unaware of everything that’s happening as well. Currently, SWMHP is compiling a list of these stories and intends to utilize our ArtPlace project page as a place to share them.
As we continue to move forward in these efforts, SWMHP is excited to engage in discussions with those communities who have been identified based on various factors such as changing demographics, strong community planning history, and/or a strong interest in expanding arts and cultural opportunities; gaining more awareness of regional activities and stakeholders; and moving into the final community selection process from which we can start to identify and help articulate, what changes or issues each would like to address.