Sep 16 2015 Minneapolis program seeks to increase civic engagement by bringing together City departments and community artists
Encouraging civic engagement can often be a challenge for local government. Creative Citymaking Minneapolis, a collaboration between the City of Minneapolis’ Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy program and Intermedia Arts, is working to address this challenge by placing local artists within City departments to lead innovative, artistic projects that bring residents together and give them a platform for helping shape their community’s future.
The multi-year Creative Citymaking program, recently profiled in Nonprofit Quarterly, builds on a 2013 pilot project that successfully worked to increase civic engagement — 50 – 95 percent of residents who participated in artist-driven, community engagement projects reported not previously taking part in any City planning processes. “With a project like this, we’re showing that we want to think big when we plan for the future of Minneapolis, and we know our neighborhoods are only going to be made better by this new level of collaboration,” explained City Council Vice President Robert Lilligren. One example of the government-artist partnerships that are at the core of this initiative is the work that artists E.G. Bailey and Sha Cage are doing with the Community Planning and Economic Development department in the Cedar-Riverside area. “The artists helped transform what might have been a bureaucratic information-gathering exercise into a survey that ultimately engaged more than 1,900 residents in identifying the community’s assets,” according to Nonprofit Quarterly. Instead of having residents check off a box in a typical survey, Bailey and Cage created a hand-drawn magazine with interactive maps.
“We know our neighborhoods are only going to be made better by this new level of collaboration.”
The project is tied closely to the City’s “One Minneapolis” goal, which focuses on eliminating disparities among Minneapolis residents and fostering racial equity. According to the City’s strategic plan, it’s working to ensure that “residents are informed, see themselves represented in City government, and have the opportunity to influence decision-making.”
Collaboration between various government agencies, non-profits, businesses, and individual artists has been key to Creative Citymaking from its inception to its implementation. The successful pilot program was originally funded by ArtPlace America, itself a 10-year intersector collaboration between foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions that works to incorporate arts and culture as a core factor in community planning and development. The implementation of the program relies on the collaboration between the City of Minneapolis’ Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy program and the non-profit Intermedia Arts, and is funded by the Kresge Foundation Arts and Culture Program. The day-to-day work involves in-depth collaboration between various local government agencies and community artists. Currently the Creative Citymaking artists are working on art-related projects with the City Clerk’s Office to increase electoral engagement, particularly in immigrant communities; with the Information Technology Department to address digital equity; and with the Regulatory Services Department to create more opportunities for tenant engagement and to gather input on improving services for a diverse population.