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PLAN-IT HENNEPIN

April 28, 2012

Yesterday, Plan-It Hennepin truly went public…via the interactive billboards on Hennepin Avenue.  Did you notice them?  Do you have suggestions for preservation, improvements, additions, or revitalization along Hennepin Avenue from the Mississippi River to the Walker Art Center?

This is your opportunity to help visualize what could be.  Take advantage of it!

BACKGROUND

Early this spring, the history/city planning interests of my youth that have kept me an active volunteer for over fifteen years in the revitalization of the Central Riverfront, led me in a slightly different direction.

The Downtown Council’s 25 year plan piqued my interest, with the vision of Hennepin Avenue as a renewed gateway to the river.  And even more important, their revision of the downtown boundaries to now include the University campus now makes Minneapolis a city where “a river funs through it” rather than just a city of lakes.  What a wonderful positive example of rethinking!

And so, when I heard about “Plan-It Hennepin”, I knew I had to participate.  Little did I know I would become part of an engaging, interactive experience that surpasses what our own collaborative team has been doing over the past five years in the corporate world, but they are doing it NOT only with technology and social media, but with an emphasis on the arts!

In fact, you may hgave heard that the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the Hennepin Theatre Trust a $200,000 grant (supplemented by an additional $50,000 from the City of Minneapolis) to transform Hennepin Avenue into a “cultural corridor” that stretches from the Walker to the riverfront.

Plan-It Hennepin is the result.  It is a year-long project which began last September; then added public conversations and workshops stretcvhing over March-June this year as part of the overall process for re-imagining Hennepin Avenue.

HONORING HISTORY:  THE AVENUE THROUGH THE AGES; PUTTING OUR STORIES ON THE STREET WORKSHOP

The first public meeting of Talk-It Hennepin began with apanel review of Hennepin Avenue history-tracing back to a Navtive American footpath and ending with the late 1950s “urban renewal” that saw the demolition of the Gateway District.  Two days later, we met again for an amazing two-hour workshop entitled “putting Our Storeis on the Street”.

Four Minnesota aartists – Ta-coumba Aiken, Mankwe Ndosi, Leah Nelson and Harry Waters – each led a breakout.  Each used their art form to engage their team.  From a unique exercise to create each team to the close, this event taught me two hours of new wyas to start dialogues, collaborate, and share stories and dreams.  A different approach than I am used to, but with marvelous results.

CREATIVE URBAN INTERVENTIONS; CREATING URBAN VISIONS

Thursday evening we gathered at the Walker for a dialogue with Candy Chang, a TED Senior Fellow, an Urban Innovation Fellow, and a “Live Your Best Life” Local Hero by Oprah MagazineThis was another amazing experience – this time not in style of presentation (very traditional) but her sharing of what she has done amazed and inspired us all.  I Wish This Was stickers allow people to share what they want in place of vacant storefronts around the world; with Before I Die, she transformed an abandoned house in New Orleans into an interactive wall where residents could share their dreams.

Her automated system, Neighborland.com, helps communities shape their cities…and yesterday, in conjunction with Forecast Public Art and Chear Channel, it was launched as a public art experiment on Hennepin Avenue via nine interactive billborads flashing Neighborland messages.  Street Art in today’s world.

Before I Die was also launched Thursday as part of “Artists in Storefronts” in the WHittier neighborhood.  You will find it at the Fallout Gallery at 2609 Stevens Avenue. The WHittier project hopes to reanimate the streets, spur the economy, and have fun.  The Opening Night Party yesterday kicked off the project which will close on June 9.

MORE TO COME

Saturday’s workshop, Creative Urban Visions, again using words, drawings, sculptures, theatre and dance is sold out but there are still opportunities to get involved in several activities the week of May 7, and in the closing sessions at the New Century Theatre in June.

Check it all out at www.hennepintheatretrust.org/plan-it-hennepin.

Meanwhile, I am off to start “The Art of City Making” by Charles Landry, international authority on the use of imagination and creativity in urban change.  He is featured at engagements through-out the Twin Cities the week of May 7.

I am not sure if Dr. Borchert would be pleased or distressed to see that I am returning to my roots after all these years, but I am sure he will be listening in to the “Connecting Cities, Connecting Cultures” neighblorhoods dialogues about the Central Corridor Light Rail Line from Hennepin Avenue through the U’s East Bank to Lowertown, St Paul. And so of course, I’d best do my homework and Be Prepared by 10AM Monday, May 7 when I arrive at Cowles Center to hear what Landry has to say.

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