| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Coordination/Collaboration : Innovation + Job News

228 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All

Dino bike rack, Hmong fashion: Knight Arts Challenge winners

The Knight Foundation recently announced 42 winners of its first-ever St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge. The challenge tasked applicants with answering this question: “What’s your best idea for the arts in St. Paul?” The grants, totaling nearly $1.4 million, recognize creative initiatives from the Far East Side to St. Anthony Park.
 
In addition to providing their best ideas for the arts in St. Paul, the Knight Foundation requires successful applicants to demonstrate that that project will either “take place in or benefit St. Paul,” according to a release from the foundation. And each applicant must find funds to match the Knight Foundation’s awards. Some of notable winners include:
 
The “Smallest Museum in St. Paul,” $5,000
A project of almost-open WorkHorse Coffee Shop, in the Creative Enterprise Zone in St. Anthony Park, the “Smallest Museum in St. Paul” will be really, really small—a vintage fire-hose cabinet that couldn’t even hold a Labrador retriever. The museum will host rotating collections of artifacts, art and memorabilia from the neighborhood’s vibrant creative and academic communities. The first exhibit is scheduled for June. Future exhibits must follow three simple rules: celebrate local themes or history, engage the coffee shop’s patrons, and avoid high-value, theft-prone artifacts.
 
Fresh Traditions Fashion Show, $35,000
The Center for Hmong Arts and Talent won a sizable grant to expand its Fresh Traditions Fashion Show, the Twin Cities’ “only culturally inspired fashion event that exhibits the creativity, originality and quality of work by Hmong designers,” according to the Knight Foundation. At the show, designers must incorporate five traditional Hmong fabrics into clothing that hews to contemporary fashion. Part of the Knight Foundation grant will be set aside for career support and skills-building classes for individual designers.

Radio Novelas on the East Side, $50,000
Nuestro Pueblo San Pablo Productions, led by Barry Madore, will use its Knight award to produce a series of 20 fictional radio novelas that celebrate the history and culture of the East Side’s Latino community. Madore plans to promote the series with three live shows at yet-to-be-named venues around the district. Like Fresh Traditions Fashion Show designers, participating performers can count on support and training from Madore and his partners.
 
Paleo-osteological Bike Rack, $40,000
Artist and paleo-osteological interpreter Michael Bahl has plans to fabricate the bronze skeleton of a large dinosaur-like animal in repose, with its ribcage functioning as a bike rack. That bony crest on its skull? A bike helmet. The work focuses on how prehistoric skeletons, which are obsessed over by scientists and fossil hunters around the world—can also be viewed as works of art. “When the individual bones are joined in a united effort, a skeleton becomes the ultimate functioning mechanism, or in this case, a whimsical bike rack,” according to Knight’s website.

Twin Cities Jazz Festival, $125,000
More established organizations got a slice of the pie, too. The largest single grant went to the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. The annual festival already draws more than 30,000 attendees, but organizers wanted to add more stage space and spring for better-known headliners. Performers have yet to be announced for next year’s event, in June, but executive director Steve Heckler is considering a move to the brand-new St. Paul Saints stadium, in the heart of Lowertown. That would create more seating space and facilitate pedestrian traffic from the Green Line stop at Union Depot.
 
The St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge will continue through 2016, with two more rounds of awards. All told, the foundation has earmarked $4.5 million to fund creative ideas, plus another $3.5 million for five established St. Paul arts institutions: Springboard for the Arts, Penumbra Theater, TU Dance, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and The Arts Partnership. St. Paul is just the fourth city to participate in the Knight Arts Challenge, after Miami, Detroit and Philadelphia.
 

TechDump expands job and recycling opportunities

Tech Dump, a technology recycling nonprofit based in Golden Valley, opened a second location on North Prior Avenue in St. Paul on September 22. The facility collects more than a dozen varieties of tech waste, from old computer monitors and TVs to batteries, cell phones and printer cartridges.
 
Tech Dump complements its commitment to responsible waste disposal with a mission to create jobs for “economically disadvantaged adults” who live in the area. The organization is an offshoot of the nonprofit Jobs Foundation, led by Probus Online founders George Lee and Tom McCullough. Lee and McCullough claim that for every 72,000 pounds of waste Tech Dump handles, the organization creates one job for one year.
 
Tech Dump finds its employees through partnerships with such Twin Cities nonprofits as Goodwill Easter Seals and Better Futures Enterprises, and referrals from current employees. “[The nonprofit partners] provide soft skills training and other pre-employment resources, then refer employees to us when we have openings,” says Amanda LaGrange, marketing director, Tech Dump.
 
She adds that,  “employees are very protective of our organization,” so they can recognize potential candidates who “really want to change and work toward a new future.”
 
Once hired, employees take on escalating responsibilities until they “graduate” from Tech Dump and find work at another employer. “We want to develop the skills that will make our staff the best employees in their next position,” LaGrange adds, such as “showing up to work on time each day, respecting managers and co-workers, accepting feedback and going the extra mile.”
 
Tech Dump handles old electronics in two ways: recycling and repurposing. For the former, Tech Dump employees take apart each piece of equipment, separate its electronic components and reduce them to the simplest state possible before shipping them off to a specialized facility for recycling. For the latter, Tech Dump workers repair or replace damaged or broken components and restore each piece of equipment to good working order.
 
With both processes, any stored data is destroyed (by force, not just erased) before usable components are harvested or recycled.
 
Tech Dump is cheap and inclusive, too. “We only charge for the items we have to pay to recycle, like CRT/tube TVs and monitors, rear projection TVs and fluorescent bulbs,” LaGrange says. Tech Dump is also “open to anyone—businesses and residents of any city, county or state.”
 
Ironically, Tech Dump started out as a furniture recycler. But an experimental “Tech Dump Day” in 2011 was wildly successful, turning Lee and McCullough on to local demand for responsible e-recycling. The pair exited the furniture recycling business in 2013 and set about building Tech Dump into a socially responsible powerhouse.
 
To sharpen its approach and develop new practices, Tech Dump regularly communicates with other recyclers, like Isadore Recycling in Los Angeles and Recycle Force in Indianapolis, which provide employment opportunities for teens and adults who have spent time in the criminal justice system.

Tech Dump is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., for waste quantities of any size. Tech Dump also operates trucks that travel off-site, by appointment, to pick up larger amounts of waste.
 

MiX previews 2015 TED Talk/Northern Spark-style festival of ideas

On Thursday October 2, Minneapolis Idea eXchange (MiX) holds its inaugural event at Minneapolis City Center, to offer “just a taste of what’s to come,” says MiX vice chair Mary Shaffer. The theme of the free event (register here), which runs from 5-8:30 p.m., is “the power of ideas.”

MiX will feature three prominent headliners with a local connection: Sandy Vargas, president and CEO of the 100-year-old Minneapolis Foundation; Barry Kudrowitz, a product design luminary at the University of Minnesota; and Nate Garvis, founder of Studio/E.
 
The event, which will immediately follow the Downtown Council’s MPLS 2025 Forum, will also feature a lively cocktail hour for about 500 attendees and a performance from internationally known piano virtuoso (and Twin Cities native) Nachito Herrera. “He’s the icing on the cake,” says Shaffer.
 
The October 2 event previews the first full Minneapolis Idea eXchange in Fall 2015. Planning for the three-day festival, modeled after similar “festivals of ideas” in Chicago, Aspen and Portland, is just beginning in earnest. About 20 downtown business leaders and residents—“from lawyers, to creatives, to accountants,” says Shaffer—are spearheading the effort, which is chaired by pastor Tim Hart-Andersen of downtown Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church and chartered by the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
 
Despite superficial similarities to other ideas festivals, MiX has some key differentiators. For starters, it’s free and open to the public, unlike more exclusive events. Shaffer hopes for as many as 10,000 attendees over three days next year.
 
MiX is also multi-locational and multi-format “in a Northern Spark meets TED Talks meets Minneapolis kind of way,” says Shaffer. Other ideas festivals tend to be concentrated in a single ballroom or convention center, reducing opportunities for attendees to interact with the host city.
 
On the interaction front, the festival’s timing should be a boon. “The early October dates give us the opportunity to celebrate the fall colors and highlight our spectacular landscape, while it's still feasible to do outdoor activities,” says Shaffer.
 
She adds that MiX hopes to coincide with the Twin Cities Marathon and attract as many of that event’s attendees—many of whom come from out of town—as possible. In fact, Shaffer’s team is actively working with Meet Minneapolis and Twin Cities in Motion to ensure that MiX and the marathon are complementary, not competitive.
 
Each annual MiX festival will have its own theme, typically an evocative verb like “intersect” (MPLS 2025’s theme) or “captivate.” The organizers encourage restaurants across the city to use these themes as inspiration for special dishes and drinks. By getting local businesses involved, visitors “can participate in an exciting activation of downtown,” says Shaffer.
 
To make next year’s festival as engaging as possible, MiX is actively courting corporate sponsors. Current sponsors include Ryan Companies, the Bush Foundation, This Is Folly! (the creative agency behind the MiX brand) and several private individuals on the MiX development team.
 
MiX is the last of 10 initiatives in the Downtown Council’s MPLS 2025 plan, though “that doesn’t mean we’re least important,” says Shaffer. Some of these goals are aspirational, like doubling downtown Minneapolis’ population within the next 10 years and turning the area around the new Vikings stadium into a “sports district.” Others are more concrete, like launching MiX and building Gateway Park.
 
 

ARENA DANCES collaborates with TC photographers on "Main St. Project"

Mathew Janczewski’s ARENA DANCES recently previewed its upcoming “Main St. Project” at a well-attended event in the patio space between the Marriott Courtyard Minneapolis Downtown and Town Hall Brewery. The event, called “Main St. Project: A Photography Unveiling,” included work from three Twin Cities’ photographers: Keri Pickett, Jack Armour and Wing Young Huie.
 
Their images of urban and small-town landscapes that have changed as a result of economic forces like suburbanization, big box retail and de-industrialization were projected on the brick exterior wall of the Southern Theater, where the multi-media performance “Main St. Project: The Evolution of Main Street: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” will run October 2-5. Performers from ARENA DANCES animated the imagery, which also included faces from Twin Cities' communities.
 
Following the show, some of the photographs were also projected onto the broad sides of buildings in the surrounding area, including the silos near the Guthrie Theater. Minneapolis Art on Wheels handled this aspect of the project.
 
The photographs will be incorporated into the October dance performance, as well. "When Mathew approached me to be a part of [his “Main St. Project”], I combed through my archives of photographs taken over 35 years," Huie says, "and selected 20 photos from about six different projects that I thought reflected a broad range of socio-economic and cultural realities in Minnesota."
 
According to ARENA DANCES, “Main St. Project” aims to answer a simple question: Does “Main St.” still exist? The dance performance incorporates “visceral and explosive movement [and] electro/techno/pop music, folk-inspired songs, and projections of filmed interviews with people from diverse communities and backgrounds” in pursuit of the answer. The photos add context to the performance by portraying historic and contemporary "Main Sts.," neighborhood intersections and city centers in various states of repair.
 
"All of the photographers and photography provide a great perspective on what 'Main St.' means," says Janczewski. "We're asking the question, 'How can we have a neighborhood-oriented future?'"
 
For Janczewski, the “Main St. Project” is personal. He grew up in Round Lake, Illinois, between Chicago and Milwaukee. As a child, he remembers a vibrant, community-focused town with a bustling downtown. Today, the town's economic engine has shifted to generic office parks and big box stores on its outskirts—a transformation repeated in countless other American communities.
 
Janczewski also wrestles with modern themes of alienation. Though he lives in a condo building, he says, there isn't always a sense of common purpose and community in his own neighborhood. And he's inspired by MIT professor Sherry Turkle's work on "technological isolation"—stories about how, despite being more connected than ever before, we feel depressed or inadequate when we interact with others online.
 
The project incorporates participants from ARENA DANCES’ Intergenerational Residency Program, an ongoing outreach initiative that facilitates dialogue between members of discrete, age-specific communities. The residency connected local middle- and high-school kids with residents of senior living facilities, who told stories of growing up in close-knit small towns and neighborhoods—quintessential "Main St." experiences.
 
The show includes a dynamic interplay of multimedia elements. A preview video on ARENA DANCES’ website shows unadorned performers in states of apparent bliss and others marked by frenetic bursts of energy against a backdrop of scattered newspapers, forlorn images and jarring bursts of light. The performing company is comprised of six local dancers: Elise Erickson, Sarah Baumert, Kimmie Allen, Timmy Wagner, Blake Nellis and Dustin Haug.
 

Spinning Stories connects bicyclists with TC storytellers

The third edition of Spinning Stories, a bi-monthly “place-based storytelling series” that transports cyclists to its stories’ settings, takes place Saturday, September 27. Departing from Northeast Minneapolis’ Recovery Bike Shop at noon, the free and open-to-the-public event features three yarns from three notable Twin Cities storytellers: Amy Salloway, Javier Morillo-Alicea and Heidi Arneson.
 
According to a release from Spinning Stories, the event covers up to 15 miles at a languid “muppet pace,” says organizer Brian Fanelli. “We’re only as fast as the slowest rider.”
 
The three storytellers all have deep connections and street cred in the Twin Cities. Salloway is the founder of Rock Star Storytellers and Awkward Moments Productions, among other groups, and has previously won the SlamMN! and Moth slam events. Morillo-Alicea, who is president of the Service Employees International Union’s Local 26 by day, has won two Moth awards. Arneson produces one-woman plays that explore life in the Upper Midwest, and has garnered recognition from TC Daily Planet and members of the local comedy and storytelling communities.
 
Fanelli is keeping the subject matter of the stories close to the vest, but he will say that one features a particular parking space on University Avenue—a seemingly mundane setting for performance art. “It all comes back to this parking space,” he says. “Stories happen everywhere, even in the negative space of a parking lot.”
 
Previous editions of Spinning Stores have attracted about 40 people. The initiative got a big boost in July, with its participation in the city-wide, week-long Pedalopolis event.
 
Ongoing support from Recovery Bike Shop and Re-Cycle (Fanelli jointly serves as Community Involvement Coordinator) has been “hugely helpful” as well. He credits both shops’ broad customer base— “beginner cyclists, veteran cyclists and everyone in between, including storytellers who don’t think of themselves as bikers at all”—with attracting diverse participants to Spinning Stories.
 
He notes that “bike shops supporting the arts is becoming a thing,” citing this year’s Artcrank series and ongoing exhibitions at One on One Bicycle Studio in the North Loop.
 
Recovery and Re-Cycle have also provided mechanical support for Spinning Stories’ riders and unspecified “in-kind payments” to storytellers, says Fanelli, and will do so for this event as well. “Their support means I'm able to put more time into the project than I might otherwise be able to.”
 
Fanelli also credits participating storytellers with generating enthusiasm for Spinning Stories. “The community of storytellers in the Twin Cities is this beautiful, thriving ball of energy,” says Fanelli, “and it's really a wonderful thing to be so welcomed by that community.”
 
For all three events, he has engaged with “local storytelling producers” to find stories (and tellers). Salloway has been “overwhelmingly helpful with connecting to other storytellers,” says Fanelli. Previous Spinning Stories storytellers have included local luminaries like Paul Canada Nemeth, Taylor Tower and Tristan Jimerson.
 
Saturday’s edition will likely be the last outdoor Spinning Stories event of the year, but Fanelli is slated to teach a month-long storytelling unit in an ESL classroom at Roosevelt High School this winter. “No one is doing anything like this,” he says, “and I'm incredibly excited to bring story arts into the Minneapolis Public Schools.”
 
Outdoor rides will begin again in the spring, though Fanelli hasn’t yet set any dates. He does plan to incorporate the “youth voices” from his stint at Roosevelt into next year’s programming, though.
 

MN Social Impact Center to connect change agents

The Minnesota Social Impact Center (MSIC) will launch in early 2015 spearheaded by Katie Kalkman, Terri Barreiro and Beth Parkhill—three Twin Cities’ residents with deep roots in the local business community. MSIC aims to build on the momentum generated by other recent social innovation startups in the area, including Social Innovation Lab, Social Enterprise Alliance Twin Cities and GlobalShapers Hub.
 
According to MSIC's launch-event manager, Michael Bischoff, the organization’s goal is simple: Connecting “change agents” from the nonprofit, business, government and philanthropy sectors to improve citizen engagement, access to education and the arts, and conditions for Twin Cities residents of all ages.
 
Despite a dense concentration of such change agents right here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Bischoff laments, there’s no single framework for integrating their activities, or even ensuring that they’re on the same page. “Our goal is to foster real world solutions to address some of the greatest challenges facing our communities and the world,” Barreiro explains. “Pick any major issue and you’ll find groups convening in our region, seeking new answers that will achieve better results than what we have today.”
 
On November 12, MSIC hosts a “pre-launch” event (6:30 pm to 9:30 pm in Macalester College’s Kagin Ballroom). Macalester College is “a natural choice for the pre-launch event,” says Bischoff, “because social innovators have been gathering there for several years as part of the Bush Foundation’s Social Innovation Lab.”
 
The event will include announcements about specific programming initiatives and membership options, as well as material on “more than 30 stories of transformative social impact in Minnesota,” says Bischoff.
 
There is a sliding-scale fee for the event registration, but for $275 attendees can distinguish themselves as “founding members.” Although many details still have to be worked out, membership at MSIC would include access to a co-working space similar to those currently administered by Joule and CoCo. Other levels of membership would include access to MSIC’s facilities, staff, collaborators and other members—all offering a wealth of social enterprise expertise—without physical co-working space.
 
According to Bischoff, MSIC’s programming will initially utilize several spaces around the Twin Cities, but the organizations is in the market for a permanent location. Board members Kalkman and Tim Reardon are heading up the search, weighing site options in downtown St. Paul, along the Green Line and at unspecified locations in Minneapolis.
 
“We know innovators want us to get this going now,” says Reardon. “We need a minimum of 5,000 square feet to start. Long-term, we’ll need two to three times the space to build the right environment for this dynamic, interactive community.” Reardon and Kalkman hope to find a space, at least on a temporary basis, for the center’s anticipated launch.
 

GetKnit boosts experiences with local businesses

Minneapolis event-organizing company, GetKnit Events, is changing the way Twin Cities residents experience local businesses and attractions. On September 13, it pulled off its most ambitious and far-reaching experience yet: Rails & Ales, a self-guided tour of the breweries and brewpubs along the Green Line, from Target Field to Union Depot. Hundreds of participants sipped discounted brews, previewed special cask releases and rubbed shoulders with some of the most innovative brewers in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
 
For GetKnit founder Matt Plank, connecting Twin Citians with local business owners—preferably on a permanent basis—is the whole point. He and the company’s “core team” of paid employees, most of whom knew each other socially before GetKnit’s founding, are constantly looking for “ways that we [can pursue] our goal of community engagement while supporting local businesses in and around Minnesota,” says Plank.
 
Tickets for Rails & Ales sold out quickly, but a lucky group of several hundred attendees got their run of three establishments in Minneapolis and five in St. Paul, all within walking distance of the Green Line. (Though pedicabs were out in force to transport customers between stations and breweries, especially at farther-flung spots like Urban Growler and Bang Brewing.) Guests checked in at the Target Field, Stadium Village or Union Depot stations, where GetKnit staffers and volunteers handed out T-shirts, drink tokens (two per person, each good for a free pint) and “event passports” that listed participating breweries, their specials and Rails & Ales social media contests.
 
Other locally owned businesses got in on the act too. The Dubliner Pub, between the popular Raymond Avenue (Urban Growler and Bang) and Fairview Avenue (Burning Brothers) stops, ran all-day drink and food specials. Food trucks like Peeps Hot Box posted up outside participating breweries, tempting customers with daily specials. And even independent vendors, like the woman selling vintage glassware outside Bang, profited from the early-afternoon crush on a beautiful Saturday.
 
Meanwhile, the brewers themselves relished the chance to mingle with enthusiastic craft beer fans. At the Mill District’s Day Block Brewing, for instance, the head brewer handed out free pints to anyone who correctly guessed the varieties of hops laid out on the table before him. Rails & Ales wrapped up at 6 p.m., but brewery owners have to be hoping that the day provided a permanent boost in visibility.
 
GetKnit draws inspiration from other tour companies and event organizers, says Plank, but with a twist. Aside from the focus on locally owned business, which is lacking in some areas of the industry, the company aims for “wildly original” events “that our participants likely couldn’t do anywhere but through GetKnit.” You might be able to spend an entire Saturday riding the Green Line between breweries, in other words, but you probably wouldn’t be able to mingle with head brewers, try specially brewed cask releases or enter social media contests for free events and swag.
 
And unlike more bare-bones tour and event operators, GetKnit organizes well-staffed, all-inclusive events that “allow participants to turn off their brains for a day...and not worry about anything,” says Plank. For Rails & Ales, GetKnit had at least one representative at every participating brewery, in addition to staff at check-in stations. The goal was to facilitate “safe and responsible” enjoyment while showcase the ease of using local transit and “how much is accessible right off of its grid.”
 
GetKnit also designs bespoke events for private groups. Plank cites a recent example in which a group of Latin American businesspeople came to the Twin Cities for meetings and sightseeing. Many had never been to Minnesota, so Plank’s team set about creating the "quintessential Minnesotan experience” that included a horse-drawn carriage tour of St. Anthony Main, a brewery tour and tasting, a hands-on cooking class featuring Jucy Lucy burgers and even private curling lessons.
 
For now, GetKnit organizes events in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. But Plank doesn’t rule out the possibility of expanding the model to other regions, possibly with the help of knowledgeable locals. A recent St. Croix Valley winery tour did cross the Wisconsin border, and “we are playing with other events that might do more extensive tours of other areas in our neighbor to the east,” he says.
 

Booming startup scene active in TC Startup Week

This week (through September 14), the best and brightest in the Twin Cities’ booming startup scene will come out to play for Twin Cities Startup Week (TCSW). Sponsored by prominent, entrepreneur-focused local organizations like Beta.mn, Tech[dot]MN, Minnesota Cup and Minne*, the event features free coworking at CoCo, Minnesota Cup’s final awards reception and the ever-popular Bootstrappers Breakfast get-together.
 
“Twin Cities Startup Week is inspired by the growth of Minnesota’s tech startup community,” says Morgan Weber of Minnesota Cup. “Our goal is to unite the makers, doers and creators in the local startup scene.”
 
TCSW events will take place throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul, with many events finding homes at tech-friendly spaces like CoCo and Maker’s Cafe. They’ll cater to businesses at every stage of the startup process, too.
 
For instance, on Tuesday, Beta.mn 1.5 invited early-stage startups to demo their ideas, dispensing with formal pitches. It was “a lot like a science fair, but with more booze,” according to the event page. The Minnesota Cup reception on Wed evening caters to startups that are further along, awarding hefty prizes to entrepreneurs and teams with highly promising products. Rejection Therapy, which teaches participants to deal with professional rejection, offers character-building guidance that entrepreneurs can use throughout their careers.
 
While most TCSW events cater to local startups, tech entrepreneurs and investors will be on hand as well. Showcase events like Twin Cities Startup Crawl, which will tour a handful of downtown Minneapolis startups, and MinneDemo, a formal pitch event, are particularly attractive to outsiders (and local investors) looking for the next big thing.
 
Twin Cities Startup Week isn’t a first-of-its-kind event. Startup Weeks abound in other parts of the country: In May, Boulder hosted its own Startup Week, sponsored by more than a dozen local tech companies and innovation nonprofits; in June, Maine Startup & Create Week hosted an eight-day conference that showcased that state’s technology sector for the benefit of outside investors. Startup Weekend, a Seattle-based, nonprofit offshoot of Google for Entrepreneurs, hosts frequent local events at which entrepreneurs collaborate to launch a startup within 54 hours.
 
TCSW, however, is rooted in the unique, collaborative culture of the Twin Cities. Neither the Boulder nor Maine events included free coworking sessions or anything like Minnesota Cup, for example.
 

River City Revue highlights the good, the bad, the ugly along the Mississippi

The River City Revue (RCR) is “an annual summer series of river tours throughout the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area organized by Works Progress Studio, the Mississippi River Fund and the National Park Service,” according to its website. And RCR isn’t shy about highlighting the dark side of living in a river city.
 
After an August 22nd canoe trip between Hastings, Minnesota and Prescott, Wisconsin, the series returns to the Padelford Riverboat in St. Paul for “Filth on the River” on September 10. That program features “performances, participatory games, and short illustrated talks on some of the filthy, debaucherous, and unseemly aspects of life on the Mississippi.”
 
The overall goal of the series is to showcase the Mississippi River’s impacts on the Twin Cities’ economy, culture and natural environment. “To me, living in a river city means thinking about our relationship to water,” says Shanai Matteson, co-director of Works Progress Studio. “Water connects and sustains us,” adds Colin Kloecker, the studio’s other co-director.
 
According to Matteson, River City Revue began in 2011 as a public art collaboration with Northern Spark. Initially planned as a one-off, the initiative was so successful that Matteson and Kloecker pushed to turn it into an annual series. As the only National Park Service-protected waterway in a major urban area, the Twin Cities’ Mississippi River frontage is a unique asset that RCR’s collaborators believe is worth celebrating.
 
Other events have included “Purity on the River,” a get-together on the Jonathan Padelford Riverboat that featured speeches, performances and material showcases from local artists and thinkers.
 
The event was a mishmash of water-themed content, including a “water bar” with flights of local tap water and “collaborative panoramic river drawing” with the MAKESH!T Collective. Other highlights included a water-themed photo showcase, a poetry reading by Mary Austin Speaker, and a discussion of “water purity and beer brewing” – always an interesting topic – that included local author Doug Hoverson and representatives from Boom Island, Bang Brewing and Indeed Brewing Company.
 
“Purity on the River” was the third of five River City Revue events and one of two riverboat cruises in the series. The first RCR event, held at the Science Museum of Minnesota on June 27, featured riverfront walking tours (which had to be modified slightly due to high water levels) and lectures from National Park Service employees and local historians.
 
The second, which launched from the Soap Factory on July 23, explored the Twin Cities’ best “fishin’ holes” and included input from local fishing experts, chefs and naturalists.
 

Design for Good/The Common Table create food systems exhibit

The AIGA Minnesota  Design for Good initiative (#designforgood), first launched nationally by AIGA in 2011, is partnering with The Common Table for a first-of-its-kind showcase at this year’s Minnesota State Fair. The exhibit will highlight the diversity of local food systems, with input from “organic farmers, farm-to-table restaurants, nonprofits working on healthy soil initiatives and other organizations involved with sustainable agricultural initiatives,” says Sandy Wolfe Wood of AIGA Minnesota.
 
Among other things, the exhibit highlights Design for Good’s commitment to “design thinking,” an “iterative problem-solving process” that “has the power to find innovative solutions to our most challenging social problems,” says Wolfe Wood.
 
Design for Good's showcase is part of The Common Table's exhibit about local food stories in the Horticulture Building at the state fairgrounds. The Common Table enlisted AIGA Minnesota and the Design for Good initiative to design the graphic and multimedia storyboards for the 18 partner organizations. These storyboards are supported by the Storytelling Pavilion, a structure designed and constructed by The Common Table team that resembles branching trees with a canopy of airy honeycombs. The exhibit is both kid and family friendly, and will remain as a permanent exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair for years to come.
 
Many of the partner organizations are based in the Twin Cities. Notables include Red Stag Supperclub, Wedge Community Co-op and Birchwood Cafe. All of them source organic and sustainably farmed produce from farms near the Twin Cities.
 
Several producers will be on hand as well, including Homestead Gardens of Welch (an innovative plot that utilized cold-climate permaculture techniques) and Moonstone Farms. Industry thought leaders from the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, Environmental Justice Advocates and the Central Minnesota Sustainability Program will participate too. 
 
Design for Good has grown into a key initiative for AIGA Minnesota, which is one of the country’s largest AIGA chapters and one of the state’s largest design organizations. According to its website, Design for Good’s ongoing programming aims to build “a core group of designers interested in design for social impact...who want to be engaged with social change, who have ideas of what issues are most salient, and who can share stories of successful collaborations that have made a difference in the world.”
 
Fairgoers who aren’t affiliated with AIGA Minnesota, The Common Table or any of the exhibit’s partner organizations can still lend their time and talents to the event in exchange for free State Fair admission on the day they volunteer. The Common Table is handling volunteer scheduling here.
 

Social Innovation Lab plans "Deep Dive" for change agents

Social Innovation Lab, a Minneapolis-based social justice organization begun in partnership with the Bush Foundation, is holding its next "Leading Innovation Deep Dive" on September 15 and 16 at the Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center on Minneapolis's North Side. The event will be one of a dozen that the organization has held in the past two years, all focused on training local employers and employees to "solve complex social challenges."

Social Innovation Lab is the brainchild of Sam Grant and Michael Bischoff, two social justice veterans who have decades of combined experience. Grant currently runs two other nonprofits, AfroEco and Full Circle Community Institute. Bischoff is Clarity Foundation's lead consultant. Bo Thao-Urabe, who is the Senior Director of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and runs RedGreen Rivers (an initiative that supports female artisans), is assisting Grant and Bischoff.

The Deep Dive aims to unite decision makers and role players from diverse backgrounds to talk through—and implement, at least on an experimental level—solutions to the Twin Cities' most entrenched social issues, including broken food systems and racial disparities in housing and hiring. The goal is to customize solutions to fit the needs of individual organizations, creating a graduating class of "change agents" who can apply what they've uncovered to the problems they face.

The Deep Dive walks participants through every step of the change-seeking process, from "clarifying the intent of your team" to "build[ing] prototypes that develop practical solutions" and "scal[ing] innovation for social benefit," according to the Lab's website. Participants are guided by six global principles, from "bring[ing] an open heart, mind, and will" to "honor[ing" commitments."

The ambition and optimism of the Deep Dive—and Social Innovation Lab in general—is a conscious counterweight to the sometimes-overwhelming feeling of powerlessness that can afflict people who work for positive change.

"Everybody that we've talked to is saying...the same things," says Grant in a video posted to Social Innovation Lab's website. "As hard as they work, they feel like they're facing this dynamic...where they're getting one step forward and two steps back, and they can't really sense that what they're doing is leading to the deep change that they desire."

As Bischoff puts it, it's much easier—and more exciting—to work on overcoming these obstacles as part of a team, "instead of just trying harder by yourself." The end result: a "community of social innovators" that drives momentum for positive change and "close[s] all of these persistent gaps," says Grant.
 

Southern Theater launches innovative ARTshare program

On Tuesday, July 22, the West Bank's Southern Theater publicly launched its ARTshare program with a festive gathering at Town Hall Brewery. Beginning in January, ARTshare members will get full access to all 15 of the Southern's resident performance companies for $18 per month, with a minimum commitment of 12 months. Members can reserve seats at performances on a first-come, first-serve basis, with no additional fees or restrictions. The theater is also working on a set of members-only perks, to be announced later this year.

To start, the theater is making a total of 2,100 memberships available. The Southern is already well on its way to this goal: Barely two hours into the celebration, nearly 200 memberships sold online and at Town Hall. Once the cap is reached, membership will be closed until and unless executive director Damon Runnals and his team decide to add more capacity. Memberships help fund a three-year, $11,000 per year residency for each group. The Southern won't charge residents to rent the space, though they must shoulder their own production costs.

In a recent interview with MinnPost, Runnals acknowledged that ARTshare will bring live performance to the Southern Theater for the first time in more than three years. While this means that the space won't be available for rental or other functions for the foreseeable future, it will provide a platform for more than a dozen small, local dance or theater groups. To smooth the transition, Runnals plans to "[hold] meetings with the resident companies to talk and share best practices," according to the interview.

If the Town Hall-hosted event was any indication, the initiative should be successful. Eighty attendees filled the brewery's patio. Free beer and appetizers fueled a merry crowd, many of which were members of Southern's future resident companies. People in orange ARTshare T-shirts circulated through the crowd, speaking with attendees about the initiative and soliciting membership pledges. At 4:30 p.m., the brewery patio hosted three impromptu performances from future ARTshare resident companies.

Members can expect more of the same from ARTshare's nearly untested membership model. As he noted in the MinnPost interview, Runnals and his team didn't have another example to study. Two theaters in Chicago and the Pacific Northwest also offer limited numbers of unrestricted memberships, but they both double as production companies. As a "co-presentation" facility, says Runnals, the Southern is more like Northern Spark - "a platform for artists," who have lots of say over how the theater operates, not to mention its content.

New cycling museum taking shape on Central Avenue

The Twin Cities has an entrenched biking culture and a surprising history of local cycling innovations. Soon, MSP will have a cycling museum to celebrate those achievements, as well.

Three cycling enthusiasts, including the two founders of Recovery Bike Shop, are creating the Cycling Museum of Minnesota (CMM)—"an idea that's long overdue," says Nina Clark, Secretary of CMM's Board of Directors. The museum will open sometime in 2015, in the 4,000-square-foot, second floor suite above Recovery.

The idea for a cycling museum originated with Juston Anderson, the captain of the Minnesota chapter of The Wheelmen, a national organization "dedicated to keeping alive the heritage of American cycling," according to its website.

Over the years, CMM has accumulated dozens of bikes and bike-related artifacts from sponsors, including one of the oldest bike repair stands in existence, a solid racing wheel prototype from HED Cycling and the first Surly fat tire prototype. "We want to be a repository for those seminal artifacts," Clark says.

At the moment, CMM's collection is largely made up of items Anderson has loaned out. In turn, Recovery owners Brent Fuqua and Seth Stattmiller permit rent-free use of their second-floor space. But CMM is growing quickly: According to Clark, the organization has already had some success in soliciting donations, pledges and loans from individual biking enthusiasts and companies tied to the industry.

A fundraising/open house event in late July showcased items that represent various cycling eras. "The idea is to represent all periods" of cycling history, says Clark about the museum, while "keeping the focus on Minnesota."

The museum won't just be for physical artifacts. A self-described "biker about town," Clark is particularly interested in literature and exhibits that celebrate cycling's contributions to the development of the Twin Cities' park and trail systems, as well as the manufacturing and retail businesses that profit from growing interest cycling.

CMM's founders and directors envision the space as a force for advocacy, too. "We want to be advocates for cycling's benefits for health, the environment and sustainable urban development," Clark explains, "not just a static collection."

Significant donors can earn membership in one of three "Founders' Clubs": Silver Spoke for contributions of $50 to $249, Gold Spoke for $250 to $499, and Titanium Spoke for $500 to $1,000. Since the cost of refurbishing and maintaining items in a collection like CMM's increases proportionally with its size, the organization is exploring membership and/or sponsorship models that ensure positive cash flow.

 

Made's bespoke products merge client branding, sustainability

Made, based in Uptown, takes an approach to designing and manufacturing corporate gifts, apparel and novelties that encapsulates client brands and reduces the environmental impact of the manufacturing process.

Made is the brainchild of Michelle Courtright and Kristin Hollander, two "gift industry" veterans who met through mutual friends in the late 2000s. When the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008, the pair decided to abandon their storefronts and join forces to create memorable corporate gifts—"beyond tchotchkes," says Courtright.

Made takes a bespoke approach to each product, usually designing items from scratch. The company started in government procurement. Through contracts with the Pentagon and FBI, Courtright and Hollander devised complex, multi-step solutions to clients' often-inscrutable requests.

"We gained a reputation for figuring stuff out," says Courtright.

Their approach also led to contracts with Twin Cities businesses like Target, as well as with The New York Times and pop culture icons like Pharrell Williams. In Made's nearly six years of operation, the company has relied exclusively on referrals and organic growth.

Another client, Minnesota Public Radio, still relies on Made to design and fulfill gift orders for its 120,000-strong membership base. Early on, when MPR needed a large order of red mugs, Made advised that red dyes manufactured in the United States were highly toxic, eventually finding a German producer that used a less-toxic vegetable base.

As a general rule, Made doesn't like to create disposable or single-use products, although they women bend this rule for such items as USAID's natural disaster relief kits. Made also structures its supply chain, where possible, to avoid redundant shipments.

But the company balances an earnest commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship with realism. "[Our client] Whole Foods knows that its customers won't want to pay $10 for a single tote bag," says Courtright. So Made finds solutions that incorporate low-impact materials without sacrificing affordability.

Although Made has Minnesota roots –and 13 local employees—its approach to manufacturing is a global endeavor. The company sources materials and components from all over Asia, but tries to acquire as many materials as possible from the United States. “The world is more interconnected than you would believe," says Courtright.

ArtsLab report highlights capacity building, resiliency

ArtsMidwest, an Uptown-based arts organization that forms partnerships with artists and local art organizations throughout the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region, has released a major report to publicize the achievements of its ArtsLab subsidiary. Entitled “Capacity Building and Resilience: What Participants Learned Through ArtsLab,” the exhaustive report outlines the experience of eight organizations, including five from the Twin Cities.

According to Anne Romens, ArtsMidwest’s External Relations Manager, the report “offers key takeaways for nonprofit organizations seeking to build their resiliency and for grantmakers supporting the arts and culture sector.” The report itself is intended for “organizations looking to strengthen their adaptability, funders interested in the leadership qualities that support careful fiscal oversight, and…colleagues in other capacity building programs, both within and beyond the arts community.”

ArtsLab partners can enroll in the Peer Learning Community, an intensive, two-year “training and technical assistance program that brings diverse arts leaders together in a supportive, collaborative environment.” Components of the Peer Learning include mentorship assignments, monthly webinars, quarterly retreats, and training sessions that focus on financial management, strategic planning, community engagement and impact evaluation.

The five participating Twin Cities organizations had incisive feedback for ArtsLab—and the program’s future participants. During its first year working with ArtsLab, All My Relations Arts was evicted from its space at the Great Neighborhoods! Development Corporation, forcing the organization to hastily partner with the Native American Community Development Institute and seek funding assistance from ArtsLab. Over the subsequent two years, All My Relations found a new gallery and performance space that now anchors Franklin Avenue’s ascendant American Indian Cultural Corridor.

Mizna, a St. Paul organization that sponsors the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, nearly went bust when its former director resigned to pursue her writing career. ArtsLab helped the organization secure much-needed funding to carry it through. But Rabi’h Nahas, Mizna’s board director at the time, is even more appreciative of the guidance and experience of ArtsLab’s staff and educators.

In addition to the report and accompanying case studies, ArtsLab released a complementary video series on ArtsMidwest’s YouTube channel, including contributions from the studied organizations.

ArtsLab was founded in 1999 with grants from six funding partners, including the Bush Foundation. According to its website, the initiative aims to “support the acquisition of new skills, tools, and habits [that enable] navigation in a constantly changing environment” through “a highly participatory process.” It’s permanently staffed by Program Director Sharon Rodning Bash, Program Manager Angela Keeton, and Program Assistant Emily Anderson, and supported by a national group of educators and arts leaders.

 
228 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts