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PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

June 10, 2012

It was our final workshop for Plan-It Hennepin, the city-making initiative primarily funded by the National Endowment of the Arts.  Since March, we have Talked It, Planned It, Tracked It, and yesterday, in the workshop at New Century Theatre we did our best at “Putting it All Together-Naming and Claiming”.

Drawing on a past workshop in which we went out on the street with our photographers from FAIR School to record the YES and NO elements currently found along the avenue from the river to the Walker, yesterday we addressed the NOs in the four defined districts. 

As we gathered around our large working model of Hennepin Avenue, we viewed the major zones we have become so familiar with, now marked with pictures and explanations of the NOs we identified in May.  Then, led in song by Mankwe  Ndosi , we returned to the theatre for a final planning exercise that  was designed to address the activity and dynamic mix of people in public space.  Networking to share educational experiences, and vital businesses represented in each group, we then turned to our task – to identify design and development initiatives (stressing function before form) and finally, to define public policies that support a vibrant, equitable public realm in a city.

This week, we were allowed to choose our area of interest, so my May comrades and I gathered around our work table with the dynamic Harry Waters  to start the discussion of HOW we might get rid of the NOs from river’s edge to the LRT; captured our thoughts on flags which were stuck in  small green balls if they pertained to architectural changes, places or ideas and in yellow cones if they pertained to people or events,  Once these visual symbols were complete and placed on the model of the entire street, we  joined together with the other teams to share  results.

 Aside from all the individual projects and thoughts, two things stand out about the day…the link of the three “sisters” – Nicollet for commerce, Hennepin for arts, and First Avenue for dining and entertainment – which all can come together at the Gateway and the river….and at the other end, the ideas we heard to conquer the “divider” of the freeway with remarkable creativity including the vision of disguising it with an amphitheater that turns the vision back upon the city.  Woven through-out was a concern for interculturalism as well as a feeling that a new “community” had been formed- driven first by our own personal interest, and then strengthened by the collaborative process to which we had been exposed.

Gathered together in a closing Declaration Circle, we each were asked what one thing we would commit to do on our own   (and be held accountable for by our co-participants) to keep what we have begun in these last four months  continuing to move forward as the project  moves into final three months of planning.

Talk about engaging…interacting…and being held accountable for our actions!

Again, this has been the most amazing event experience I have ever participated in.  A world of thanks to Tom Borrup and his hometown team of Ta-coumba Aiken, Mankwe  Ndosi, Leah Nelson, and Harry Waters, JR – all  supported by a talented cast of international and local experts  from Seitu Jones, Chancee Martoreli, Don Mitchell this past Thursday  to  Candy Chang, Charles Landry,  and a great group of locals who kicked the initiative off last March and of course, the inspiring  FAIR School students  and the several other youth groups in the city that participated separately and shared their visions.

Borrowing on some thoughts from Landry, we are on our way  to becoming a  world-class city based on cultural literacy, healthy (physically and mentally) urban planning, eco consciousness, and creative city making that empowers people to use their imagination and to rethink  planning not just in terms of hardware, but in terms of facilitation interaction and interculturalism.

Many of us expressed the same thought. We are sorry to see this phase of the year-long project end.  But judging on our Declarations, I am sure I have not see the last of the many new friends I have made as we share our passion for  MSP and its future!

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