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Bruner Loeb Forum highlights stronger communities through art and design

At the recent Bruner Loeb Forum in Minneapolis, a mix of speakers stressed numerous community development initiatives that take art into account in ways that are both concrete and philosophical.

The Bruner Loeb Forum, which originated at the Harvard Design School, is a biannual gathering that brings to the fore "innovative strategies from across the nation that leverage local engagement in art and design to build more equitable, more economically sustainable, and more connected neighborhoods and cities," according to program materials.

The two-day event in Minneapolis was titled, "Putting Creativity to Work: Stronger Communities through Locally Rooted Art and Design." As it unfolded at various local venues, it brought together a crowd of that included local and national designers, scholars, planners, artists, nonprofit representatives, government officials, and others, program materials state.

Juxtaposition Arts hosted the event in partnership with the University of Minnesota's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) and landscape architecture department, Nexus Community Partners, 4RM+ULA architecture, and Conway+Schulte Architects.

At the conference, speakers touched on everything from Houston's Project Row Houses to the ability of artists to turn around declining neighborhoods. Attendees toured the North and South Minneapolis neighborhoods, where Juxtaposition Arts and Native American Community Development Institute are working to improve the areas.

DeAnna Cummings, who heads Juxtaposition Arts with her husband, Roger, hopes people will get serious about addressing racial disparities. "They have to be addressed if we'll ever manifest our potential as a community," she says. "We all have to work together to change it."

She cites a couple of examples of the kind of creative problem-solving that came out of the exercise. In examining West Broadway Avenue North, from the Mississippi River to Penn Avenue North--as  part of a creative mapping activity--conference participants concluded that the plethora of youth-oriented programs is too poorly advertised, while artistic streetscape enhancements need to be more visible.

She says that the event's speakers discussed the importance of pulling together diverse groups of people to solve problems and build on opportunities. Instead of getting the best and brightest people, who tend to be like-minded, "more effective is a team that thinks differently, that envisions challenges through different lenses," she says.  

Cummings says she was impressed with the level of energy of conference-goers. While she and others are still "unpacking" the takeaways, follow-up events are in the works, including a Juxtaposition mural to go on Broadway and Emerson. Students will work with professional artist mentors "to bring what happened at the conference out onto the street."   

Source: DeAnna Cummings, Juxtaposition Arts
Writer: Anna Pratt

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