| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Coordination/Collaboration : Innovation + Job News

216 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All

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.


Crux Collaborative and the power of rebranding

Crux Collaborative, a user-experience consulting firm based in the southwest Minneapolis, is dramatically changing its approach to business, staff and clients as part of a bold rebranding effort.

During the past year, the firm formerly known as Eaton Golden has adopted a flatter management model, a more collaborative approach to internal problem-solving, and a culture of “trust and even friendship” between clients and employees, says co-principal Mahtab Rezai. She calls the experience overwhelmingly positive, with new clients and new staffers energized—and surprised—by Crux’s highly personal, yet results-driven, approach to its work.

Recently, says Rezai, an increasingly tech-savvy population and a growing volume of digital points of customer-vendor contact created a “sea change” in user experience best practices, from a proscriptive, top-down approach to a more user-friendly, even nurturing one.

“Almost everything we do now is complex and interrelated,” she says, including how we access and communicate information. Crux specializes in improving user experiences for “complex, data-driven, transactional experiences,” Rezai says, which “aren’t optional and haven’t historically provided a lot of choice to the user.”

Ultimately, the goal is to render these experiences—like using a health exchange, executing online financial transactions and accessing employee benefits—more “humane,” making it easier and more natural for people to complete essential, boring tasks in the digital space.

Rebranding has helped Eaton Golden/Crux Collaborative process and take advantage of this shift. Sadly, a tragedy accelerated the process.

In early 2011, principals Emily Eaton and John Golden lost their young son to cancer. Rezai, a former colleague of Golden’s who was already in talks to take a new role with the company, immediately took over day-to-day management of the firm while the parents grieved. Eaton eventually sold her interest to Rezai and left the company completely to write a book about coping with grief.

Rezai still has her operational role. Golden and Rezai are now equal partners. But Crux is no longer “two leads plus a support staff,” says Rezai. Nearly every important decision, including the company’s new name, arises through consultations with rank-and-file staffers. In a larger company, this might produce friction, but Crux is small enough to function as a single team.

So far, the experience has been transformative. Even experienced employees had never seen a rebrand go so smoothly. Morale has spiked. Clients are happy, too: Crux just posted the strongest first quarter in its 10-year history. Last year, with the transition in full swing, the company made Minnesota Business Magazine’s “Top 100 Businesses to Work For” list, a major achievement.

Will Crux’s new approach to business translate into a bigger workforce and a national client pool? For now, Rezai is cautious about such plans.

“Growth is not our objective,” she says. “Excellence is.”

The company has eight full-timers, with room for just a handful more. And since it doesn’t have a business development division or send out RFPs—“We’ve found that they’re a waste of our time”—the firm relies on word of mouth to attract new clients. Crux is picky about accepting new work, essentially “prequalifying” clients before pitching or consulting with them.
“The ability to judiciously say ‘no’ has taught us how to say ‘yes’ when it’s clearly right,” says Rezai.

By choice, Crux also focuses on companies in the banking/finance, medical device, health insurance and benefits administration subsectors—niches heavily represented by Twin Cities businesses. As Rezai puts it, “we stick to what we’re good at.”


New Fusion program addresses shortage of tech workers

In less than a year, a partnership between Advance IT Minnesota and Metropolitan State University has produced Fusion, an “IT residency” program that will officially launch during the 2014-15 academic year. Fusion places students in various technology degree programs with local employers—ranging from cutting-edge startups to Fortune 500 firms—that need flexible, entry-level IT labor. The program has already accepted applications for the coming year’s roster and is in the process of vetting applicants.

Unlike a traditional internship, which typically runs a single academic semester, each participant’s residency lasts 18 to 24 months—roughly tracking their last two years of college. Students are paid for their time, typically less than 20 hours per week, with projects assigned by their employers and paychecks issued by their school.

Fusion currently has 40 open spots, but Bruce Lindberg, executive director of Advance IT Minnesota, hopes to grow the program significantly in time for the 2015-16 academic year by expanding the program’s enrollment at Metro State and creating an identical residency program at Mankato State. By next year, enrollment could increase twofold, with further growth possible.

“If employer demand and participation grow beyond the capacity of those two partners,” says Lindberg, “we will look to expand by involving other academic partners” around the Twin Cities and outstate areas.

With a projected deficit of nearly 10,000 tech workers in the state by 2020, Fusion aims to accelerate the development of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s high-tech workforce while making it easier—and less risky— for employers and prospective employees to find one another. Currently, the rapidly growing and changing industry suffers from “skill mismatch,” where employers struggle to find candidates who can keep pace with changing job requirements and competencies.

“Many graduates face the frustrating reality of employers asking new grads for two to three years of experience…which they usually don't have,” says John Fairbanks, a third-year Metro State student who applied to the program this spring. “[T]hrough the Fusion program, I will graduate with a degree and have substantial experience to back it…allowing me to enter the job market more quickly and with real-world experience to solve real-world problems.”

The idea for Fusion developed out of conversations between Lindberg and Marty Hebig, Maverick Software Consulting’s founder and president, in January 2013. Lindberg and Hebig, whose company helps firms avoid offshoring by hiring low-cost, U.S.-based student IT workers for special projects and ongoing work, helped recruit other local business leaders to the cause. He also helped them build a compelling case for an IT residency program. In January 2014, Metro State approved the program and began publicizing it to students.

Employers and managers who wish to learn more about Fusion can attend an information session, hosted by Advance IT Minnesota, at MCTC’s campus on June 17 between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. RSVP through Bruce Lindberg at Bruce.Lindberg@metrostate.edu or 612-659-7228.


Mobile markets bring fresh produce to low-income neighborhoods

A recent city-ordinance change has paved the way for mobile grocery stores. Now the Wilder Foundation’s Twin Cities Mobile Market, a repurposed Metro Transit bus that cost the foundation just over $6,000, can distribute fresh produce on St. Paul’s East Side and the North Side of Minneapolis.

Both neighborhoods are considered “food deserts” because the corner shops and independent markets that provide residents with groceries lack fresh produce and other wholesome items.

“[Low-income] people living in these neighborhoods are already at higher risk for obesity and diabetes,” explains Leah Driscoll, the Wilder Foundation program manager in charge of the project. “Living in a food desert makes these problems worse.”

Many residents of these lower-income areas also lack reliable transportation to supermarkets in adjacent city neighborhoods or suburbs, further constraining their shopping options.

The ordinance change, which requires each food truck-like mobile grocery store to stock at least 50 individual fruits and vegetables in at least seven varieties, replaces an older ordinance that had restricted mobile grocery sales to areas around senior housing complexes.

The new law permits mobile grocery stores to set up in commercial, industrial and apartment complex parking lots between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. They can’t locate within 100 feet of traditional grocery stores and farmers’ markets without explicit permission from owners or operators. They also can’t sell certain items, including tobacco products and alcohol.

In addition to the requisite variety of fresh fruit and veggies, Twin Cities Mobile Market will also stock other staples, including bread, dairy products, meat, canned goods, and other non-perishables at costs competitive to places like Cub Foods. Before selecting sites for weekly visits—“public housing high-rises, senior buildings, community centers, and churches” will get the highest priority, according to the foundation—Wilder must secure at least 50 signatures from locals interested in using the market.

Driscoll is working closely with local community leaders to ensure that “we’re actually wanted and needed in the neighborhoods that we select—we don’t just want to show up,” she says.

Twin Cities Mobile Market, which Wilder unveiled on Monday at a “sneak preview” event hosted by Icehouse, isn’t the only mobile grocery truck set to take advantage of Minneapolis’s ordinance change. Urban Ventures, a faith-based organization headquartered in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, is putting the finishing touches on a repurposed refrigerator truck that will begin making grocery sales around South Minneapolis, and eventually the North Side, later this summer. The truck, whose wares will include healthy helpings of local produce, will accept EBT and carry a nutrition specialist to help customers make healthy buying decisions.


MARS Lab and Google's mapping initiative for smartphones

Earlier this year, Google selected the University of Minnesota’s MARS Lab as its primary academic partner for Project Tango, a high-profile indoor mapping initiative that has been compared to Google Maps. The selection came with a $1.35 million grant and a directive to explore—and expand on—the possibilities of a prototype smartphone capable of creating 3D maps of indoor spaces. Google’s only other academic partner on the project, Washington, D.C.’s George Washington University, has a much smaller role.

According to Google, the current prototype device is a “5 inch Android phone containing highly customized hardware and software designed to track the full 3D motion of the device as you hold it while simultaneously creating a map of the environment.”

The phone can take up to 250,000 spatial measurements per second to create an intricate map of its surroundings.  While this technology isn’t yet available as an app on regular smartphones, part of MARS Lab’s charge is to create apps and APIs—mobile development platforms—that enable the app to be scaled down and included with non-specialized devices. Within a few years, some form of the technology will be available for download like any other Android app. The U of M lab will have played a central role in making that possible.

A major challenge will involve surmounting the technology’s requirement for two independent cameras. It’s unclear whether future versions will be able to work with a single smartphone camera, or whether devices that use it will need to have at least two vision sensors. A strict non-disclosure agreement, breach of which could jeopardize the lab’s funding, prevents MARS Lab director Stergios I. Roumeliotis from getting into such specifics about Project Tango.

A video released last month by the MARS Lab team shows the prototype’s capabilities. Although the current version produces a somewhat slow, abstract representation of its surroundings, future iterations will create near-lifelike interior maps. Google and MARS envision three broad areas in which 3D mapping can play a role: virtual/augmented reality video games, internal navigation in unfamiliar buildings (rendering directions in malls and corporate edifices all but obsolete), and navigation aids for the visually impaired. But innovation probably won’t stop there: In a recent interview, Roumeliotis argued that “the list of potential future applications is endless.”

In addition to Roumeliotis, two MARS Lab alums who have since taken positions with Google—Joel Hesch and Esha Nerurkar—are leading the development charge. The building blocks for the project were actually laid about a decade ago, when the MARS Lab team helped create the internal navigation system, known as VINS, for NASA’s Mars landers. A loss of NASA funding for the project proved to be a blessing in disguise, as Roumeliotis’s team found that the system worked just as well for earthbound mapping and navigation.

Corridors 2 Careers strengthens workforce development

Ramsey County’s successful Corridors 2 Careers pilot program—which connects economically disadvantaged residents of communities along the Green Line, including Frogtown, Summit-University and Cedar-Riverside, with workforce training resources and employers in the area—already has several notable successes.

According to the program’s exit report, more than 1,400 residents of Green Line neighborhoods participated in the initiative, and nearly 90 percent had no previous knowledge of workforce resources in the area. As a direct result of their participation, 65 local residents found gainful employment and an additional 47 enrolled in basic or continuing education classes.

The pilot project also encouraged local job applicants to obtain—and local employers to recognize—the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate, “a portable credential that demonstrates achievement and a certain level of workplace employability skills,” according to ACT. The public-private partnership between Ramsey County and Goodwill-Easter Seals will continue to push this certification.

Of the five-dozen employers that participated in the pilot project, more than half were unaware about local workforce development resources that connect prospective employees with willing employees in transit-served areas. At least eight hired Corridors 2 Careers participants.

Now, the project has blossomed into a larger partnership between Ramsey County Workforce Solutions, Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board and Goodwill-Easter Seals of Minnesota. At least nine workforce development organizations have already committed to support the partnership, which aims to increase the “alignment of workforce needs between the residents and employers” in the area, according to the press release announcing the partnership.

The Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board’s Alignment and Integration Committees will coordinate the activities of the participating organizations, including Goodwill-Easter Seals, which provides GED tutoring, job-specific skills training and job placement services to individuals who have been chronically unemployed, recently incarcerated, afflicted by homelessness, or who struggle with alcohol or chemical dependency.

Going forward, Corridors 2 Careers aims to connect at least 400 Green Line residents with job search assistance, and place at least 80 percent of those participants in entry-level jobs or job training programs. The goal is a “location-efficient economic development strategy” that encourages local employers to be more receptive to diverse residents’ cultural needs, refer rejected applicants to workforce development agencies, and create new, industry-specific employer clusters along the transit-dense Green Line.

With Goodwill-Easter Seals and the Ramsey County organizations acting as pillars for the initiative, local employers will be able to directly tap C2C for willing, well-trained workers, connecting unemployed residents who urgently need work and employers that require specific skill sets.

GiveMN launches enhanced fundraising system this summer

GiveMN, an online philanthropy platform launched by the Minnesota Community Foundation and based in downtown St. Paul, is partnering with Kimbia and Minneapolis-based Fast Horse to enhance its fundraising capabilities and improve the users experience. GiveMN’s new fundraising system will debut this summer, with the improved website rolling out in phases beginning later this year.

The partnership with Kimbia, announced earlier this month, comes after a rigorous RFP process that included several competing proposals. “We wanted a partner that was innovative and forward-looking,” says Dana Nelson, GiveMN’s executive director. Kimbia’s mobile-friendly technology integrates with “social media, partner websites, and personal webpages” and “enables donors to give in less than a minute,” according to its website.

GiveMN’s Fast Horse-led website redesign will build off Kimbia’s next-generation technology, with a responsive, “modern” user experience that’s consistent on big-screen desktops, tiny smartphones, and everything in between. The gradual rollout should minimize disruptions for current users, says Nelson, while encouraging newcomers to engage.

“With technology changing so rapidly, it’s hard to predict how people will access our platform in the coming years,” she explains. “We want to be out in front of that and create as many opportunities as possible for Minnesotans to engage with us.” The goal is to encourage donors to respond in real-time to “things that happen”—from unpleasant events like floods to fundraising drives for schools and churches across the Twin Cities and beyond.

“We want GiveMN to be the first place on the minds of local donors,” says Nelson, “whether they’re using their phones, tablets, desktops, or watches to give.”

With Nelson at the helm, GiveMN launched in 2009, drawing inspiration from microlending platforms like Kiva and community-focused charities like DonorsChoose. The goal was to foster closer relationships between donors and recipients, “which felt really radical at the time,” says Nelson.

GiveMN has stayed lean: It maintains its own office in Lowertown, but leverages the HR and finance assets of the Minnesota Community Foundation. GiveMN now supports a wide range of Twin Cities-based organizations, from St. Paul’s Springboard for the Arts (which uses GiveMN as its exclusive online fundraising tool) to Shir Tikvah, a Jewish Reform congregation based in Minneapolis.

The Nathan Hale School PTA in Minneapolis uses the service as well. Whereas bake sales and other commodity-driven school fundraising events can have high overhead costs, says Nelson, 95 percent of every dollar given through GiveMN goes directly to schools.


One Day on Earth gathers Twin Cities stories

Got big plans for April 26? Lu Lippold, the local producer for One Day on Earth’s “One Day in the Twin Cities,” has a suggestion: Grab whatever video recording device you can—cameraphones included—and record the audio-visual pulse of your neighborhood.

On the final Saturday of April, the Twin Cities and 10 other U.S. metros will host the fourth installment of One Day on Earth’s celebration of film, culture, and all-around placemaking. Founded by Los Angeles-based film producers Kyle Ruddick and Brandon Litman, One Day on Earth (ODOE) has a “goal of creating a unique worldwide media event where thousands of participants would simultaneously film over a 24-hour period,” according to its website.

The first event took place on October 10, 2010 (10-10-10); 11-11-11 and 12-12-12 followed. ODOE skipped 2013, but its organizers weren’t about to wait until 2101 for their next shot. Instead, they selected a spring Saturday—both to accommodate amateur filmmakers with 9-to-5 jobs, and to give participants in the Northern Hemisphere longer daylight hours to work with—for a bigger, bolder, slightly revamped version of the event.

For the first time, participants get 10 questions to inspire their creativity and guide their storytelling, from “What is the best thing happening in your city today?” to “Who is your city not serving?” The goal is to create a multi-frame snapshot of “cities in progress,” one that doesn’t simply answer the who-what-where of the places it covers.

As One Day in the Twin Cities’ point person, Lippold supervises local filmmakers and pitched the project to dozens of partner organizations, including the Science Museum of Minnesota and Springboard for the Arts to visual media companies like Cinequipt and Vimeo. (The McKnight Foundation and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative are the largest local sponsors.)

The upside? “[The event] is a great way to shine a light on all the hard work that our nonprofit community does,” says Lippold.

Lippold also works with a handful of local ambassadors, some of whom enjoy national acclaim. These include noted cinematographer Jeff Stonehouse, veteran documentarian Matt Ehling, and community-focused filmmaker D.A. Bullock. They’ll be contributing their talents—and stature—to One Day in the Twin Cities’ promotion and execution.

One Day in the Twin Cities could be seen well beyond Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Along with their counterparts from other participating cities, local filmmakers may see their work incorporated into a condensed, three-part series that Litman and Lichtbau will market to PBS affiliates around the country. No word on whether TPT will air the special, but TPT Rewire has agreed to publicize the event in the coming weeks.

The real stars of One Day in the Twin Cities, though, are its filmmakers. Even if you’ve never filmed anything in your life, says Lippold, you can contribute meaningful work. Thanks to an interactive map feature on ODOE’s main site, the work will visible to anyone who visits.

“If I were just starting out in video, I would see this as a huge opportunity,” says Lippold. Since all contributions are credited by name and location, each participant “instantly becomes a documentary filmmaker,” she adds.

Source: Lu Lippold
Writer: Brian Martucci

West Bank Arts Foundry: Connecting artists and businesses

On April 5, the West Bank Business Association (WBBA) will host a full day of creative merrymaking for artists, business owners, and arts enthusiasts on the West Bank. The West Bank Arts Foundry (WBAF), as the event is known, aims to connect Twin Cities artists with local business owners and “create more opportunities for artistic endeavors on the West Bank,” according to its website.

The neighborhood has long been known as a hotbed of creativity, but West Bank Business Association director Jamie Schumacher sees an opportunity to double down. “The arts are so important to the West Bank’s history…and part of what makes us a great destination district,” she says. “I want to do everything I can to support the creative activity we have and help build more.”

The WBBA already supports local creative events like the West Bank Music Festival, but the district lacks an arts advocacy organization. As an advocate for all local businesses, including many creative enterprises, the WBBA is a natural catalyst to help grow the West Bank’s arts scene. Schumacher cites a glaring need to “recognize and help more of our musicians and artists” and connect them with “businesses [that] want to be more arts-friendly.”

Ultimately, the goal of the West Bank Arts Foundry—hopefully an ongoing one, if WBAF becomes an annual ritual—is to forge, and then build on, partnerships between local property owners and artists. With so many “great minds coming together to collaborate” at WBAF, says Schumacher, “I’m interested in seeing what creative solutions [can be found to solve] some of our area’s issues.”

Owners of temporarily vacant buildings might work with local muralists to keep their properties lively before new tenants move in, for instance. Installation artists might use their talents to help West Bank visitors explore or navigate the neighborhood.

Schumacher is well-suited to oversee WBAF. As an employee of Peace Coffee—and, later, as owner of Altered Esthetics, a nonprofit art studio—she learned the ins and outs of the nonprofit sector. Her tenure as boss of the WBBA, meanwhile, has reinforced the placemaking power of creative enterprise. “[The] arts help to make communities unique, vibrant, livable, and destination worthy,” she says. “The West Bank is a pretty fantastic example of that.”

WBAF will feature 15 (and counting) “breakout sessions.” Many—Budgeting & Accounting for Artists, Marketing for Artists & Events—offer practical advice for working artists. Others, like Underground Art and the Vibrant History of the West Bank/Rekindling the Guerrilla Art Spirit, are meant to be “inspirational and collaborative,” according to Schumacher. WBAF will also feature appearances from prominent artists, including Joan Vorderbruggen (recently featured in The Line), who will lead a discussion of street and storefront art called Popping Up in the West Bank.

“It’s going to be a fun day,” says Schumacher, “and a solid opportunity to increase art and creative activity on the West Bank, as well as be a good networking opportunity for artists and businesses.”

Source: Jamie Schumacher
Writer: Brian Martucci

Global Water Dances connects water issues around the world

Even in an increasingly interconnected world, few events or movements are truly global in scope. Global Water Dances (GWD), a biannual event aimed at raising awareness of water issues in various parts of the world, is among the precious few. GWD is a complex effort governed by a steering committee and facilitated by thousands of dancers and choreographers. But it owes its existence, in large part, to the efforts of one woman: Marylee Hardenbergh, a Minneapolis choreographer and Artist-in-Residence at Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education in Saint Paul.

At 1:30 p.m., on March 22 (the United Nations’ World Water Day), the Center will host a film screening to benefit GWD. The event will include short films about GWD and presentations by local water activists from H2O for Life, Friends of the Mississippi River, the National Park Service, and other organizations.

Global Water Dances grew out of Hardenbergh’s “One River Mississippi” project, a simultaneous, six-city dance event that was “the world’s largest site-specific performance,” according to the website for the 2006 event. The project was just one of many that Hardenbergh has overseen as Artistic Director of Global Site Performance, a 501c3 nonprofit.

In 2008, Hardenbergh attended a gathering of Laban Movement Analysts in Europe and showed a documentary about the event. The attendees were floored by the event’s scope, the artistic freedom of performers at individual sites (in New Orleans, for example, one of the performances incorporated local jazz music), and its unabashed advocacy of river-related environmental issues. Many wanted to participate or contribute somehow, but most lived nowhere near the Mississippi. The solution was an international dance event focused on general water issues: Global Water Dances.

Given the scale of the undertaking, the first GWD wasn’t held until June of 2011. In total, 60 sites—on all six populated continents—participated. Part of the appeal, Hardenbergh says, was the fact that “the event can be easily replicated anywhere, using local resources.”

The first GWD was a “rolling” event, scheduled for 5 p.m. local time at each site. The timing was meant to be convenient; folks in North America didn’t want to get up in the wee hours for a truly simultaneous performance. But it was an inconvenience for the Australian contingent, which struggled on through twilight conditions (it was close to the Southern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, after all). Hardenbergh hopes to avoid the daylight issue by scheduling the next performance for 2 p.m. on June 15, 2015.

Hardenbergh and the other organizers, which are based in Canada, Germany, Colombia, and the United States, hope to forge official partnerships with local, national, and maybe international water advocacy organizations to a greater degree than the previous two events. While the event is a high-profile, ready-made means of drawing attention to pressing environmental problems, says Hardenbergh, “the nice thing about a dance is that it’s not an overtly political expression.”

Source: Marylee Hardenbergh
Writer: Brian Martucci

Creative Minneapolis introduces user-curated community

It’s not quite “Pinterest for professionals” or “Facebook for freelancers.” But CreativeMinneapolis.com, developed by Mark Sandau of the Minneapolis design firm Sandau Creative in the North Loop, is an interactive, user-curated, free online community for designers, illustrators, writers, and other artists who want to get their work noticed.

After kicking the idea around for several months, Sandau soft-launched the site in early February. He invited his close friends and colleagues to make submissions and approvals. He followed up with a proper kick-off at the end of February.

According to the website, Creative Minneapolis’ member-submitted, member-approved content is “about the creative work, people, and events in and around Minneapolis.” After a trial period, during which creatives can submit their own work but can’t approve other members’ submissions, users gain “editing” privileges that give them a say over the approval and placement of the site’s content. By “hyping” chosen posts, editors can push compelling work to the “top” of niche-specific silos like “advertising,” “copywriting,” “photography,” and “digital.”

“This platform isn’t revolutionary,” Sandau says. “It’s evolutionary, an interesting idea.” The fact that users can shape submitted content—and, thus the very appearance and nature of the site—is a powerful proposition.

Sandau’s worked in the industry for nearly two decades. Prior to founding Sandau Creative 10 years ago, he worked several entry-level jobs. He then landed at Fallon for a seven-year stint. He understands how tough it is for rank-and-file creatives—especially freelancers, who often toil around the margins of the media and advertising industries—to get their work noticed by the right people.

Even smaller agencies like Sandau’s, unless they have a “sexy brand” under their belts, might not have the resources to devote to a tradeshow exhibit or promotional campaign. Creative Minneapolis aims to be a highly visible virtual portfolio for these folks.

Current focus notwithstanding, there’s nothing stopping Creative Minneapolis from morphing into something bigger or broader. In the future, Sandau hypothesizes, a close-knit group of gearheads could use the site to share pictures, videos, or animations of modified cars or motorcycles, and the most interesting of the bunch would bubble to the top alongside portfolio pieces from local graphic designers. 

“Done right,” he says, “Creative Minneapolis has the potential to mirror the audience that’s watching and contributing.”

For now, Sandau is content to see where this all leads. He has a business to run, after all, and doesn’t have unlimited time to promote the site. That’s okay, he says. “At the end of the day, it’s just fun to see other people’s work.”

Source: Mark Sandau
Writer: Brian Martucci

Lyft kicks off rideshare service at Public Functionary event

Lyft, a San Francisco-based ridesharing company that has expanded into nearly two dozen U.S. cities over the past 12 months, kicked off its Minneapolis-Saint Paul service last week with a stylish launch party at Northeast Minneapolis’ Public Functionary. Guests mingled to beats from DJ Sarah White and quaffed free brews from Indeed Brewing Company. Glam Doll Donuts and Maya Cuisine catered.

The beats and brews weren’t the only free items on display at PF. Lyft used the event to showcase its Lyft Pioneer program, which offers two weeks’ worth of complimentary rides—up to a $25-per-ride limit—for Twin Cities residents who download its app.

Lyft bills itself as “your new best friend with a car.” That’s actually pretty accurate: The company works with freelance drivers who use their own cars to move riders, who “hail” rides using Lyft’s mobile app, around a pre-determined service area. It’s basically a taxi service without a car barn, human dispatcher, or official licensing system.

This last bit has gotten Lyft in hot water with some local governments, including Minneapolis’. Officials fret that Lyft circumvents restrictions against unlicensed, “for hire” taxicabs. Lyft counters that it carries liability insurance worth $1 million per driver, far exceeding that of many taxi companies. For now, riders shouldn’t worry too much about the service’s legality—any liability falls on the shoulders of the company itself, not its users. And Lyft’s proponents contend that the progressive, even revolutionary potential of an on-demand ride-for-hire app is self-evident.

According to Tricia Khutoretsky, Public Functionary’s founder and executive director, such progressiveness drew the two organizations together. Khutoretsky got in touch with Nic Haggart—the point person for Lyft Twin Cities, although he’s actually based in San Francisco—through “mutual contacts,” she says, and the idea for a launch party at PF sprouted from there.

“[Haggart] thought Public Functionary would be a good fit” for the type of launch event that Lyft had already held in 20 other cities, says Khutoretsky. More so than many other galleries, Public Functionary has a diverse audience that’s heavily involved in the Twin Cities’ creative industry. Many members of the “Lyft community,” meanwhile, are hardworking creative types who either drive to make a few extra bucks or ride because they lack cars of their own.

Lyft and PF might be very different organizations, but they share a singular devotion to finding new solutions to old problems.
“We’re always thinking about how we communicate and share resources with an eye towards sustainability,” says Khutoretsky. As a company that promotes ridesharing, Lyft is nothing if not sustainable, and the launch party served as a means of “giving support for their concept, which we are totally behind.”

In return for the warm welcome and much-needed visibility, Lyft will be sponsoring PF’s next exhibition. As the organization looks for new ways to break the “stuffy” art gallery mold, it’s likely to host more mutually beneficial events of this nature.

Khutoretsky is careful to draw the distinction between this “sponsorship” model and the “space-for-hire” approach that many small galleries use to raise funds. Working with like-minded organizations is a boon, she argues, as long as it doesn’t compromise PF’s image as an accessible, progressive, occasionally subversive exhibition space that values small donors and community engagement.

“One of our resources is our space,” says Khutoretsky, “and we continuously seek ways of using it without diluting our identity.”  

Source: Tricia Khutoretsky
Writer: Brian Martucci

Videotect continues to bring levity to serious design issues

Now in its fourth year, Architecture Minnesota’s popular Videotect contest, created “to bring more voices and more creativity into public debates about key built-environment issues,” is getting a bit of a makeover. The basic parameters remain the same: Inspired by the contest’s open-ended, sometimes offbeat prompt related to architecture, design, or the use of public space in the Twin Cities—this year it’s “Two people walk into a bar…”—entrants create informative, entertaining videos.

This year, the entries must be between 30 and 90 seconds in length, which is shorter than in the past. “The first year, entrants had four weeks to create two- to four-minute videos,” says Chris Hudson, Architecture Minnesota’s editor and Videotect’s originator, “and they just about killed themselves” getting it done. That first contest—the topic was the Minneapolis skyway system—produced some memorable videos, though, including a hilarious 3D rap battle about streets vs. the skyways.

Also this year, in addition to a shorter main entry, contestants can submit as many six-second Vine videos as they like. The ultra-shorts must promote contestants’ main entries in some fashion, but don’t come with any other restrictions. “Vine? Everybody’s doing it! So we wanted to, too,” Hudson says.

“Two people walk into a bar…” has inspired entries that focus on design’s power to promote quality social interaction in bars, cafes, and eating establishments. All 15 videos are available for public viewing in the Videotect section of Architecture Minnesota’s website. Notable entries include “Sharing Space,” a heartwarming series of drawings that re-imagines bars as “impromptu performance spaces;” “Taproom Roadshow,” a humorous send-up of the PBS classic, set at Minneapolis’s Victory 44 restaurant; a time-lapse video of Alchemy Architects’ design and construction of the tiny, circular Bang Brewery in Saint Paul.

The contest winners and runners-up are chosen by a rotating panel of notable judges: Top prize is $2,000 and runners-up receive $500 each. There’s also a $1000 Viewers Choice Winner created through public voting on the website. This year’s judges include Omar Ansari, founder of Surly Brewing Company, who has become the panel’s resident expert on the business of socializing, an architect from Gensler, and two local film experts. “We’ve gotten lucky [with the judges],” Hudson says. “We ask people with expertise in film or in the theme, and they're generous enough to say yes.”

WCCO’s hilarious Jason Derusha hosts this year’s Videotect presentation on March 13 in the Walker Art Center’s Cinema. During the event, videos are shown, the audience roars with laughter, judges astutely comment, and attendees hobnob. Hudson wants Videotect to be about much more than a night of conversation and laughter, though.

Videotect welcomes submissions from design and architecture experts, but the contest’s true aim is to get regular folks talking about the important, if sometimes dry and complex, issues that vex people who work in the business. Architecture Minnesota originally planned to organize a more formal design competition for younger architects, but soon discarded that idea in favor of an open-to-all video contest with looser rules and an offbeat approach to weighty questions.

He hasn’t looked back. “I think Videotect's biggest achievement is simply making a subject matter as intimidating as urban and architectural design a whole lot of fun,” says Hudson. “What the videos have lacked in sophisticated design commentary, they've more than made up for in entertainment value…[that’s] a very valuable thing.”

Source: Chris Hudson
Writer: Brian Martucci
216 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts