by Allison Herrera
What kind of building would you design to replicate a vibrant and diverse arts community?
What are the characteristics of a space and place that allows art to build understanding among people?
How does a former auto-body repair shop that became a national model for the arts go about create a space for conversation and learning among artists and people living in the neighborhood?
These are the questions Intermedia Arts will be asking their constituents in the next four months to figure out how they can help re-design their current building, which they’ve been in for the last twenty years. Instead of just forging ahead and meeting with architects, poring over blueprints and then raising the money (all those things in and of themselves are not easy tasks) Intermedia is embarking on a path of deep community engagement that they are so well known for in order to help them go through this process. And it is a process indeed
Intermedia will involve artists, business leaders, youth and last but not least city planners to plunge into the details of re-designing the building. They’ll be using graphic facilitation, video documentation and community building exercises during these next three months.
These group meetings will not be your standard power point, flip chart, data facts and figures-basically anything that doesn’t pertain to you- affairs. Gone will be the standard questions and answer sessions guaranteed to put you to sleep. Instead, Intermedia employed a team with deep history and knowledge of their organization that will lend their unique talents, perspectives and experiences to help re-imagine a new space to help it thrive. This process isn’t about a new building, it’s about strengthening their place in the community-which has changed over the last ten-years. There is still a high concentration of artists, but many new businesses, living spaces and restaurant that have also appeared. Intermedia has a place among them.
If you’re reading this, you’re also part of Intermedia’s community. What kind of building do you envision for the neighborhood?
Would this building have comfortable gathering spaces where people can come together and discuss art, politics, life and experiences? Would a unifying element involve a fireplace or something else to create warmth?
Would there be both informal and informal spaces to perform and experience art?
Is it a space and place that focuses on the experience instead of the image?
The last ten years I’ve lived in Minneapolis, Intermedia has always been part of my life. It was my first job in the arts. Being new to town, I knew no one outside of the few friends that helped me move here. Intermedia became a new community to me, one that I would always go back to, no matter where I was. When I worked at t the Walker Art Center, Intermedia was an important partner. Over the years, I’ve seen them struggle, but rise again even stronger. One particular community gathering comes to mind in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008. Intermedia was struggling, but they knew other organizations were struggling too. Instead of quietly suffering alone they invited other artists and arts organizations to join them in an important conversation about what it would take to keep the arts ecosystem in the Twin Cities and Minnesota going despite the financial meltdown. To me, a participant in that conversation, it signaled a new era for Intermedia. A new era where they clearly defined their role and said to the community art changes everything.
I look forward to these next few months and I look forward to working with such a creative and dynamic team of people to push Intermedia into the next fifty years with a great space that helps the arts stay alive for generations to come.