Speaking My Language

Posted by Tom Borrup On November - 11 - 2011

Tom Borrup (center) and friends

Here’s someone who speaks my language!

In Creativity Will Change the Model, Bill Roper calls for new ways to engage people in re-imaging their communities, specifically to engage creative practices in how community planning gets done!

Just as quickly as we have young people – and people of all ages – paint images or make collages representing their vision (and I’ve done it many times), we also need Facebook, and other social media tools to spark discussions and the exchange of images representing spaces and activities that are important to people. These tools can get more people to engage in face-to-face community engagement, and enrich it, not replace it.

Until we have more experience with these tools, we won’t fully know all they can do for us, but we need to experiment.

I’m presently leading a major cultural corridor planning project in Minneapolis where one of the deliverables expected by the city is a pedestrian study. While they may balk at something other than a report from the same pedestrian consultant they’ve hired 20 times before, we’re crowdsourcing the study using Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »

Avoiding the Autotune in Your Community

Posted by Radhika Mohan On November - 11 - 2011

Radhika Mohan

At the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, we hold several intimate sessions a year, each with 7-8 mayors and another 7-8 design and development professionals.

At every session, we hammer through case studies that the mayors bring and respond with concrete ways to begin implementing their project. Often, the critique on their urban design case studies sounds something like this: “This design could be anywhere, what makes this place in your city special and unique?”

I often call this the “avoiding the autotune” suggestion. Autotune, being the new(ish) technology of the music industry where a performer’s voice can be digitized, making anyone’s voice sound similar to one another in song.

One way to “avoid the autotune” is to bring artists into the mix of the planning process.

Many of us have written that art, as an expression of our cultural identity, can be a great communicator in the design of the public realm and institutional amenities. Through storytelling, mural-painting, exhibitions, and more, we can foster the exchange of ideas on important projects in our community. Read the rest of this entry »

Changing the Discussion & Leading the Way

Posted by Bill Roper On November - 10 - 2011

Bill Roper

In a series of site visits I’ve recently taken as part of the Orton Family Foundation’s selection of a second round of community demonstration projects, I’ve talked about a number of ways land use planning has broken down in America.

One manifestation is the way public meetings are conducted the same old way at the same old place and with the same old people participating. With the same people participating, meetings run dangerously close to the “jerk factor” as Lex Leifheit so humorously and aptly put it in her post.

I won’t call the people who always talk bullies, but when they continually dominate conversations it can move from boring to intimidating.

Anusha Venkataraman rightly recognizes that as resources become more limited to local governments, communities can turn to citizens to fill the gap.

So for us to move to Lex’s “Post-Jerk Era” we need to fully employ the creativity that art brings to unleash new energy and allow for different conversations and approaches to seemingly intractable challenges. Read the rest of this entry »

Putting the Arts into Planning

Posted by Tom Borrup On November - 10 - 2011

Tom Borrup (center) and friends

While the mystery of how emotions are evoked or how synaptic connections get sparked may never be fully understood, we know artistic practices have capacities to do these things. Some wonderful Twin Cities artists demonstrated this to me well over a decade ago.

We were bringing people together to find solutions to neighborhood challenges, addressing things that might be known by the mundane terms of community problem-solving, strategic planning, and urban design.

Engaging people on expressive levels using visual art-making, movement, as in dance, and storytelling, these artists tapped imaginations and provoked different ways of understanding physical environments and relationships.

As my professional work has taken me into cultural and community planning and partnering with architects and urban planners and designers, I’ve had multiple (although not enough) opportunities to bring artists into the mix to enrich, and sometimes to completely reorient, the thinking of people and communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Creativity Will Change the Model

Posted by Bill Roper On November - 8 - 2011

Bill Roper

On behalf of the Orton Family Foundation, I was recently visiting communities in Montana and Colorado, assessing whether they would make good Heart & Soul Community Planning demonstration projects. Part of my message during this tour was that community building and planning is broken in the United States.

Approaches to engaging the public over the last 30 years have become top-down, tired, and seemingly irrelevant. Who wants to come to a meeting to provide input on a plan developed behind closed doors and when it’s pretty clear a decision has already been made? Who ever catches the notices in the newspaper or on the bulletin boards that all look the same, are always in the same places and use technical or hot button words like updates, zoning, transportation trip levels, etc.?

In a country that expects another hundred million people by 2050, we’ve got to wake up and shake up the usual way of doing business.

To move from the left brain to the right brain, to excite people and entice them or inspire them to participate, to open up the government model and build on the assets found in our human, social, and natural landscapes. Art and the creativity it embodies and unleashes can play a critical role in this regard. Read the rest of this entry »

Join Our First Animating Democracy Blog Salon

Posted by Joanna Chin On November - 7 - 2011

Joanna Chin

Community connections are being eroded on multiple sides. There are growing divisions amongst Americans on how to deal with our social, economic, and political problems. Technology is making it possible to never physically interact with another human being and warping the way we relate to one another. Small towns and cities alike are losing their sense of identity and facing crises involving lack of affordable housing and declining social services.

Perhaps in reaction to this erosion of community ties, there’s been an increased interest in cultivating civic engagement, placemaking, and change at a local level.

There is a growing body of evidence and examples of how communities have utilized local assets in order to begin to address this problem. We assert that the arts and culture have always had a place in this work of creating a sense of place, strengthening civic participation, and bolstering positive social change.

For this Blog Salon, we’ve dared our bloggers to answer big questions, like:

  1. Where do you see breakthrough work at the intersection of art and community, civic, or social change? What makes it effective?
  2. Looking to the future, what will it take to move and sustain arts and culture into its most potent role in community development, civic engagement, and social change?
  3. What are the principles we have to hold onto and what are the shifts that need to occur? Read the rest of this entry »