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Coordination/Collaboration : Innovation + Job News

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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

Art Leadership Program a win-win-win

Corporate sponsors have long played an integral role in the development and dissemination of art and culture. OST USA, an IT company with a 125-employee office in the North Loop's TractorWorks Building, is further advancing corporate sponsorship.

As the highest-profile partner of the Art Leadership Program (ALP), an ongoing collaboration that provides emerging artists with resources, guidance, and access to markets, OST supplies studio space (ArtLab 111) near the building’s loading dock for the dozen or so artists-in-residence it has already sponsored (usually for three to six months), and a lobby gallery (Gallery One) that regularly hosts exhibitions and openings for ALP’s participants.

“OST is the quintessential corporate partner,” says Ron Ridgeway, ALP’s founder and chief visionary, who launched the partnership. Ridgeway is also a mixed-media artist and corporate branding consultant. “We maintain a meaningful venue [for our artists], as well as curatorial services and placement… as exhibitions are becoming an art form in themselves. These days, it’s all about the experience.”

One ALP alumni launched from the program into high-profile commissions. In early 2012, local artist Elizabeth Simonson displayed her “systems-based” installations at BMW of Minnetonka’s Gallery One—an off-site ALP exhibition space. That same year, she built on a commission for the Walker Art Center’s lobby with a $25,000 fellowship grant from the McKnight Foundation.

Simonson “set the benchmark for our program,” says Ridgeway, but there’s nothing stopping future ALP participants and residents from notching their own victories. Ridgeway describes ALP’s corporate sponsorship model as a classic win-win-win: Artists get funding and market exposure, corporations get the positive PR that accompanies art patronage, and business districts or neighborhoods gain valuable physical assets.

“What’s been most beneficial [about working with ALP] is just getting our work out there,” says Twin Cities artist Booka B (aka Adam Booker), a recent graduate of Metropolitan State University who is showing new work with Lindsay Splichal, a recent graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, beginning March 6 in Gallery One. But creating art is just one piece of the puzzle, he adds: “You also have to connect with the community.”

Traditionally, companies that invested in art curated permanent collections that would eventually “gather dust,” as Ridgeway puts it. The rotating installations or exhibitions put on by ALP’s visiting or resident artists, in contrast, feel like organic additions to offices, building lobbies, and other public spaces, he adds.

ALP has also hosted an exhibition at International Market Square and is currently working with potential tenants of Nicollet Avenue’s 9’s on the Mall. “We hope to build a sustainable model for this type of partnership,” Ridgeway says.

Sources: Ron Ridgeway, Art Leadership Program; Adam Booker
Writer: Brian Martucci

WholeMe launches line of healthy products

For most people, a diabetes diagnosis is a wake-up call. For WholeMe co-founders Mary Kosir and Krista Steinbach, it was a business opportunity.

In the mid-2000s, Kosir’s husband developed adult-onset Type I diabetes—an unusual, but not totally unheard of, condition that progresses differently than the age-related insulin resistance we know as Type II diabetes.

The news forced the family to eliminate gluten, grains, and most dairy products from its diet. Kosir embraced the new restrictions, sharing experimental cereal and bar recipes with friends, neighbors, and associates at her local CrossFit gym.

That’s where she met Steinbach, the former pastry chef at Minneapolis’ Bachelor Farmer. Steinbach was coming off a lifestyle change of her own: In 2011, she’d competed in (and won) a 30-day “food challenge” that required contestants to eliminate refined sugar, gluten, grains, and certain other substances from their diets. By the contest’s end date, her chronic gastrointestinal issues had vanished and her energy levels were higher than they’d been in years.

“The challenge taught me how much food impacted my daily life,” she says, “and pushed me to learn more about nutrition.”

The two women had a lot in common, so they officially joined forces in early 2013. Kosir’s first creation, the energy-dense DateMe bar, was already making waves—“Everyone was telling me to start selling them,” she says—but Steinbach brought years of culinary expertise to the table. In addition to the DateMe bar, the duo created the WakeMe cocoa bar and EatMe cereal.

And so WholeMe was born. Thanks to their CrossFit connections, the co-founders had a ready-made market of active, health-conscious clients. Kosir and Steinbach also have stocking arrangements with gyms across the metro area, and they’re looking to find other places, like yoga studios and food co-ops, that attract a similar clientele. “We want to be closer to our customers,” says Steinbach, not tucked away on a shelf at a big-box store.

WholeMe’s bars and cereals are made from whole foods that haven’t been treated or altered in any way. “Our goal is to create relatively simple products where taste comes first,” says Kosir. “At the same time, we need to be mindful of what we’re putting in our bodies.” She’s quick to note, wryly, that WholeMe’s only preservative “is a refrigerator.”

Kosir and Steinbach think they’ve found a sweet spot for their products. “There’s lots of room to grow in this segment,” says Kosir. Many “healthy” foods don’t taste very good, she argues, and most tasty foods aren’t that healthy.

The two women hope WholeMe’s simple promise—healthy, delicious food for all—resonates beyond Minnesota’s borders. Less than a year after their official launch, they’ve already shipped to gyms and stores in North Carolina, California, and Hawaii. Their burgeoning e-store puts the rest of the world at their fingertips. In March, they hope to make some new friends at the Natural Foods Expo West in Anaheim, California.

It doesn’t hurt that they have a cheeky, catchy brand campaign and an experienced chef. They plan to expand their “gear concept” with more merchandise options, like T-shirts and hats, says Kosir. They expect WholeMe’s “beta testing” arm, branded NewMe, to produce seasonal or limited-release products exclusively for online sale. If a NewMe creation is well received, says Steinbach, it could become a permanent addition to the lineup.

Ultimately, Kosir and Steinbach would like to see WakeMe, DateMe, and EatMe—and whatever else they dream up—in the likes of Whole Foods, Lund’s, and Byerly’s.

Their ambition doesn’t come cheap. To cover their travel expenses and fund WholeMe’s ongoing expansion, they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign that aims to raise $40,000 by February 24. To encourage participation, Kosir and Steinbach plan to give donors dibs on the first-ever NewMe creation.

Source: Mary Kosir
Writer: Brian Martucci

CoCo starts new school for "inspired and dangerous"

For some time now, CoCo has set the standard for creative and professional collaboration in the Twin Cities. The coworking space recently opened its third location, in Uptown, and now boasts well over 100 startups, creative firms, designers, and developers in its membership rolls.

Two of CoCo’s founders, Kyle Coolbroth and Don Ball, have launched a brand-new project, Jump! A School by CoCo. The school aims to actively develop participants' creative ambitions rather than passively providing a place for them to play out.

“Since starting CoCo four years ago…we've seen many [business owners] succeed. We've also seen many fail,” says Ball. “It's really sad to see the pain that someone goes through when they can't make their dream a reality.”

Part motivational seminar, part team-building exercise, and part business incubator, Jump! aims to give entrepreneurs a head start and reduce the likelihood of “preventable failure.” Ultimately, says Ball, the school can fill a gaping need in the region’s creative economy.

“I'm not sure what else is like Jump! school,” says Ball, although he identifies the School of Life in London and Chris Gillebeau’s World Domination Summit as kindred spirits. “[Currently], entrepreneur education focuses on skills—how to program, design, manage a business, pitch to investors, and so on. All of that is important, depending on what you're up to. But are you up to the right thing? We didn't see anyone helping people figure out that fundamental question.”

Jump!’s mission—to give anyone wanting to launch a radical career shift, charity, business, or other special project the self-confidence, motivation, and practical tools necessary to take the plunge into the startup world—is embodied in three course offerings. The first, Springboard, is a 90-minute crash course in Jump!’s philosophy and approach. The $50 class, which will happen at least once per month through June, promises to “leave [attendees] inspired and dangerous.”

Intrigued Springboard attendees—or truly motivated folks who want to dive right into an intensive curriculum—can sign up for FlightPlan, a two-day, $500 marathon that encourages attendees to strip away external expectations, outgrow learned responses to stress, and discover “what truly activates [their] passion and imagination.”

Graduates of FlightPlan may move on to Solo Club, a practical, immersive experience that runs for 90 days and results in the creation of a formal business plan or creative project. More detail about this offering will emerge as Jump!’s student body grows.

Where does this all lead? Ball and Coolbroth haven’t even taught a class yet—the first Springboard meeting is scheduled for January 20—but the future looks bright. The Twin Cities area has no shortage of creative talent, and Jump! has no direct competitors. Should the school pan out, there’s also nothing stopping Jump! from exporting its model to other creative regions.

“We want to help people zero in on what is truly motivating because it comes from deep inside,” says Ball. “If you build your life's work on that foundation, then you're much more likely to be successful in that work. And everybody from customers to partners to investors [gravitate] to people who are coming from a place of power and authenticity.”

Source: Don Ball, co-founder, Jump! A School by CoCo
Writer: Brian Martucci

Hackmobile snags top prize from Ford

Last month, a team from Twin Cities Maker, a nonprofit organization that runs a community workshop known as the Hack Factory, snagged the $10,000 grand prize in the Ultimate Maker Vehicle Challenge. Ford Motor Company and Make Magazine sponsored the contest. 

The challenge was to reinvent the Ford Transit Connect commercial vehicle to equip makers on the go. Ten teams around the country participated in the contest, by invitation from Ford. 

“Makers were given an imaginary budget and certain build constraints, while being encouraged to define what is 'ultimate' to them as a blueprint for a potential vehicle,” the Ford website reads. 

The public voted for standout designs in an online platform during the first round, which lasted nearly a month. From there, judges from Ford and Make evaluated several finalists. The Twin Cities Maker’s Hackmobile, as the group calls it, rose to the top.  

Now, Ford plans to build the vehicle that came from team members Jon Atkinson, Becca Steffen, Riley Harrison, and Michael Freiert, according to Twin Cities Maker materials.

The Minneapolis-based team created a vehicle that “centered around the idea of a maker or artist being able to fabricate anything they needed out of the back of a vehicle,” a statement from the group reads. 

In some ways, the Hackmobile builds on an idea the group already had for a trailer, which it could bring to events, Freiert says. “When Ford invited us to participate, it seemed like a good opportunity to create what we’d been dreaming about over a beer,” he adds.  

When the Twin Cities Maker team members put their heads together, they decided that everything within the vehicle should perform multiple functions. It wasn’t about cramming things into the vehicle. “It wasn’t [like the game] Tetris, with components in it. It was a more unique storage and work surface solution all in one,” he says. 

The resulting vehicle combines a woodshop, welding, and electronic studio. It also has 3D printing capabilities along with storage for supplies. 

The work surface folds away like a Murphy bed while a single tool has several heads that allow for different uses. “I don’t think anyone else had the deep multi-purpose” aspect, he says. In the mobile workshop, someone could “knock together an Adirondack chair,” as just one example, he adds.

However, the Hackmobile is aimed more at coarse work than finishing work. “The Hackmobile isn’t an artist’s studio on wheels,” he says. 

Now, the group is deciding how to put the cash prize to best use. That could mean creating a Hackmobile-like trailer for the group or starting a tool lending library, among other possibilities. “We need to look into what’s viable. We’ve got a lot of projects we haven’t been able to get off the ground yet,” he says.  


Source: Michael Freiert, founding member, TC Maker 
Writer: Anna Pratt 






Groundswell hosts artwork from MMAA/Galtier School collaboration

During a two-week residency, a group of 33 students from St. Paul’s Galtier Community School collaborated with the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) on a multifaceted art project called CuratorKids. The 4th and 5th grade students’ artworks will be exhibited at Groundswell, a nearby coffee shop, from Dec. 16 through Jan. 19. In the spring of 2014, the childrens' artwork will also be exhibited by MMAA.    

MMAA developed CuratorKids to address “the shortage of art education in our public schools by offering a program that brings art and practicing artists directly to the kids,” MMAA  materials state.

Through the program, students examined a handful of artworks from the museum’s collection, according to Heidi Swanson,  technology integration specialist at Galtier. Students then wrote poems about the museum pieces. The following week, students responded to the artwork in a different way -- by making mixed-media collages. In their collages, Swanson says, "They made artistic choices relating to color, objects, and emotion.”   

Diana Johnson, a consultant to the program, says the museum pieces became “source material" for the students. “These kids really were responding emotionally and aesthetically" to the museum works, she says, which they "turned into their own work."

After the residency wrapped up, the students recorded podcasts of their poems and videos of their collages. Their poems can be listened to online here.  

Johnson hopes the project helps the students gain confidence in artmaking, as well as in academic subjects. The school hasn’t had an art program for a number of years. But CuratorKids shows students that “they can do things they didn’t know they could," she says. "If they stick with it, they can surprise themselves and see that the world around them cares and is interested in them."   

As if in response to that sentiment, a group of school volunteers pitched in $300 to frame the collages for the coffee shop exhibit, according to Swanson. At Groundswell, the students’ recordings will be accessible online via QR codes that can be scanned by smartphones.  

Swanson hopes the residency inspires students’ ongoing creativity. Through programs like CuratorKids, she says, "We hope to build a bridge to our community and create opportunities for our students to share their successes beyond the school walls." 


Source: Heidi Swanson, technology integration specialist, Galtier Community School
Writer: Anna Pratt 















New mobile app development school strives to push local tech scene

Smart Factory, a new school for mobile app development located in Minneapolis’s Uptown neighborhood, is on a mission to deepen the tech talent pool in Minnesota. 

Jeff Lin of Bust Out Solutions, and Mike Bollinger of TechdotMN and Livefront, who are friends and colleagues, founded Smart Factory, which held its inaugural classes in October.   

The need for Smart Factory rose out of rapid changes in the web and mobile industry, Lin says. “Formal academic training can’t keep up” with the changes, he says, adding that some developers find it difficult to stay on the cutting-edge while working a full-time job. 

The tech scene is “already being pushed forward by market forces and people’s desires and interests. We hope to help that cause by training people directly,” he says.

Smart Factory's program is aimed at experienced designers and engineers who want to expand their skills, especially those related to web and mobile app technology. Companies can also send employees to the school to gain software development skills, as opposed to having to outsource those skills.     

Six-week classes, led by leaders in the field, cover Mobile UI Design, Ruby on Rails, Web Production, iOS Development, and Android Development. Students follow along with the lessons on their laptops. 

Class sizes are no more than 16 people, to ensure everyone gets plenty of individual attention, Lin says. Two mentor-teachers lead the classes, as well. “In programming and design courses, there’s a lot of hands-on activity, so it’s always good to have one-on-one time with teachers,” he says. 

Additionally, students are expected to spend another 10 to 15 hours on their studies outside of the classroom, according to Smart Factory materials.  

Lin hopes the school fosters collaboration within the local tech community. “We want to educate people about what we’re passionate about," he says. "It’s less of a competition and more of a collaboration. Collaborative competition is good too."

Although schools like Smart Factory are popping up around the country, few exist in the Twin Cities. With the opening of Smart Factory, Lin expects other schools to will launch within the next couple of years. 

Source: Jeff Lin, co-founder, Smart Factory
Writer: Anna Pratt 





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