I’m overjoyed to announce I’ve been hired as an Artist Organizer with the Friendly Streets Initiative, in partnership with the Hamline Midway Coalition and Springboard for the Arts. My 9 month appointment will include coordinating artistic projects within the FSI’s 2014 project sites to complement their local, grassroots community engagement work. It feels like a perfect continuation of the placemaking I did with Friendly Streets and Springboard three years ago, the social media consulting work I do for the Irrigate project, and all the knowledge and best practices I soaked up in the Intermedia Arts Creative Community Leadership Institute last year. And I’m sure my Land of Parcheesopoly dice and plethora of leftover sidewalk chalk from last summer’s open streets events will come in handy, too!
Background on Friendly Streets (or skip to the photos at the bottom if you want!)
Responding to neighbor concerns about the designation of Charles Avenue (which runs 2 blocks North of University Ave) as a potential bike boulevard in city plans, the Friendly Streets Initiative arose to search for ways residents could have active, effective and inclusive input into the future of the street. Working with the Hamline Midway Coalition and Frogtown Neighborhood Association, five block parties were held in the summer of 2011 that brought the civic engagement process out onto the pavement. Large images of various infrastructure and placemaking ideas were turned into a mobile gallery, and block party attendees could vote on ideas they liked best with stickers and post its. The “gallery of images” also added an interactive component to the more in depth paper surveys people were asked to fill out.
In addition, Friendly Streets partnered with Springboard for the Arts to hire ten artists (including me) to bring creative placemaking activities to the block parties. Community singing, painting, improv games, building sculptural ring toss benches, creating flags that were an ode to foreclosed homes on the block, bike flags, recycled magazine bowls, and a Q&A photo project brought fun, exciting energy to the parties while giving residents creative ways to express some of the concerns and issues they are facing. This work also informed Springboard’s continuing effort to connect artist and community through creative placemaking with the much larger Irrigate project which launched that fall.
After a successful run of summer block parties, the Friendly Streets team wrote a report summarizing the data and findings. This data combined with a tremendously strong outpouring of support from the community at additional Friendly Streets events and formal policy meetings the following year led to residents’ input being directly integrated into city plans for Charles Avenue, and construction of various improvements voted on by residents (such as bump outs and roundabouts) is set to begin in 2014.
The Friendly Streets team (headed by Lars Christiansen) was invited to bring their gallery of images and model of street-based community engagement to other neighborhoods in St. Paul facing similar challenges with regards to bicycle and pedestrian mobility, access to the new Green Line LRT and other neighborhood changes that come with heavy development projects such as the Central Corridor. Partnerships with the Frogtown Neighborhood Association, St. Anthony Park Community Council, Summit-University Planning Council, Desnoyer Park Improvement Association, and Union Park District Council are alive and flourishing. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it.
From Envision MN: 10 Ways to Achieve Authentic Participation
On the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative blog: The Friendly Streets Initiative: Bringing Community Voices into the Planning Process by Lars Christiansen
On the Artist Organizer model: Artists as Organizers, A Fresh Approach to Community Development by Jay Walljasper for Twin Cities LISC