Mpls. program takes a creative approach to city planning

E.G. Bailey
E.G. Bailey at the UBS Forum at MPR in March 2014.
Nikki Tundel |MPR News 2014

Editor's note: In this next installment of MPR News' Young Reporters Series, Christina Ayodele reports on the Creative CityMaking project in Minneapolis.

How can an arcane process like city planning become more accessible to the communities it's trying to serve?

One way is through the arts.

A program in Minneapolis called Creative CityMaking is attaching nine local artists to five city departments to participate in city planning. The initiative grows out of a yearlong pilot collaboration between the city and Intermedia Arts.

The goal is to create strategies for tackling community challenges — things like reaching out to the city's youth and trying to get a higher rate of response from people of color for surveys and city meetings.

Local artist team E.G. Bailey and Sha Cage took part in the pilot project. They chose the Cedar-Riverside area because of its diverse culture and their own connections to the community.

"It's an area that is close to our heart," Cage said. "We frequent it, we shop in it, we work in it, and we used to live there. And it's also one of the most beautiful communities in the Twin Cities, and very culturally diverse."

Bailey and Cage worked with people in the neighborhood to identify the community's assets, which ranged from gathering places like parks and schools to informal networks of people.

Bailey and Cage turned a conventional survey into a hand-drawn magazine that included an interactive map of the world.

Sha Cage
Sha Cage helped transform a community survey with E.G. Bailey
Nikki Tundel | MPR News 2012

Wendy Morris, director of creative leadership programs for Intermedia Arts, said this type of engagement worked for the community in a way traditional methods did not.

"Instead of placing yourself in literally a little box to say, 'This is who I am,' the way you would in a traditional survey, there was a map where you could place yourself on the world of where it is that you come from," she said.

Four teams of artists, including Bailey and Cage, reached more than 1,900 resident, 90 percent of whom reported not having previously been involved in a city planning process.

Gulgun Kayim, director of arts, culture and the creative economy for the city of Minneapolis, said Bailey and Cage succeeded because of their connections to the neighborhood. "It's a no-brainer because these were artists who were from those communities working with the people that they knew, and they could reach them," she said.

Kayim said Creative CityMaking is the first program of its kind in Minneapolis and is proving to be a successful way to connect the city to its residents. It's funded through a combination of federal, private and city investments that total more than $1 million.

Minneapolis is receiving calls from other cities that want to implement similar programs in their communities.

Correction (Sept. 22, 2015): An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that E.G. Bailey and Sha Cage reached more than 1,900 residents. Bailey and Cage were among a number of artists involved.