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May 30, 2002

Conversation Piece

"What is the role of art in developing community?"

This question forms the nexus of four pieces of art and four community conversations on the Northside between May and August 2002. Four sites (Homewood Studios, Folwell Park, Cupps Java Coffee House in Bryn Mayr, and Mocha Caffe in the warehouse district) and four artists (Anthony Porter, Bill Jeter, Ray Roybal and George Roberts) have been selected by the Northside Arts Collective to create this ongoing conversation.

Each piece of art will be in place at its site for the three weeks prior to the conversation evening. Each piece will evolve over that time, inviting community residents to reflect on various aspects of the question. Following the final evolution of the piece, the conversation will be held at the host site to get public response to the artwork and to the questions posed.

Homewood Studios hosts the first conversation at 7:00 on Thursday, May 30. The event is free and open. Everyone welcome. Bring a friend.

Other conversations: June 20th at Folwell Park (1615 Dowling Avenue), July 18th at Cuppa Java (400 Penn Avenue North), and August 15th at Caffe Mocha & River Food Market (415 1st Street North, down the street from the Guthrie Lab).

Our evening began with each participant introducing themselves and identifying that “seed moment” when the doors of possibility were opened to them by art. These memories shared an interesting characteristic, namely they were moments filled with passion and emotion rather than with critical or judgmental response. That critical element entered later, sometimes at the expense of the freedom and passion.

We then jotted on post-it notes examples of art at work in our community right now, posted the notes on the wall and looked for connections:
~~ gardens
~~ our community garden: the colors and the lines
~~ the process of creating Humbolt Gardens
~~ attention to gardens and to garden paths
~~ Community Investment fund building art with community-based organizations
~~ Salon 1016 where artists sow and tell about their lives and work and allow voyeurs
~~ Bill Cottman walking up and down Plymouth Avenue making photographs
~~ KMOJ/Insight News Public Policy Forum: from time to time artists, conversations and works by Northside artists and performers
~~ playing in the park with Julie, Marguereita, Diandrick and Dennis
~~ Mr. M., my art teacher at Lucey Laney School
~~ kids in school, creating
~~ The “Conversation Piece” installation by Anthony Porter at Homewood Studios
~~ Plymouth Avenue Art Studios (next door)
~~ Minneapolis Institute of Arts Family Days: a remarkable place to make art with children who are already free. I made cards, sculpture and calligraphy
~~ Wing Young Hui’s photographs placed outside of galleries, in life
~~ Homewood Studios, the Northside Writers Group, shows and discussions
~~ Homewood arts Festival
~~ murals: outside and inside, relevant to their community
~~ Sculptural Cow on the NE Mpls/Columbia Heights: they keep moving it to different corners... They’re messing with the locals.
~~ North Community High School students hanging their work in Homewood Studios
~~ Renovation of the Capri Theater and building of a performance plaza by Plymouth Christian Youth Center on Broadway
~~ Art-A-Whirl: where any kind of art can be displayed, and all sorts of people come to see it (and the Northeast community) and buy it
~~ The Walker on Wheels is doing a month-long residency at Folwell Park and I am hoping it will be the start of something amazing for youth and adults

After this thought-provoking exercise, Anthony Porter offered some insights into his piece and allowed he wanted to know if people see a relationship between art and community. “Is one good for the other?” he asked. And for the next hour, the conversation ranged through notions of what is good art, who is art for, how it does affect a community, what the place of the artist is in a community and how the community feeds that kind of artist who wishes to be so connected. Here and there we experienced polite disagreement, always good for the flow of the discussion, listened carefully to each other, and closed talking in small groups, still making points and learning new ideas as we went out the door.

{Note: If you have a thought, or a response, click the SOUND OFF button for this event and add your voice to the conversation.]