Mpls mayoral candidates debate creative placemaking and the arts

Six candidates for Minneapolis mayor recently sat down to share their views on making the arts a central part of community life — what artists call “creative placemaking.” They also spoke of the role of the arts in city leadership.

Participating in the debate were: Hennepin County Board Chair Mark Andrew, former Minneapolis City Council Member Jackie Cherryhomes, Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine, City Council member Betsy Hodges, attorney Cam Winton and businesswoman Stephanie Woodruff.

I had the honor of hosting the debate, which took place at MacPhail Center for Music; the event was organized by the Minneapolis Arts Commission and the Arts & Cultural Policy Study Group.

While most of the candidates voiced their support of the arts, their responses to individual questions revealed some strong differences.

Two of the four frontrunners in the raceDon Samuels and Dan Cohen — did not attend (Samuels did send a prepared statement apologizing for his absence and detailing his past efforts to utilize creative placemaking in revitalizing communities).

Since the theme of the debate was “creative placemaking,” I started out with a definition of the term by noted arts economist Ann Markusen:

“In creative placemaking, partners from public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, tribe, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.”

Here’s the debate, broken down by question for your ease of listening.

1.  How important are the arts to the city of Minneapolis? As mayor of Minneapolis, how will you incorporate creative placemaking into your city leadership? (Note: You’ll first hear from Betsy Hodges, then Cam Winton, Jackie Cherryhomes, Stephanie Woodruff, Mark Andrew and Bob Fine)

2. Mayor Rybak has approved a budget for 2014 that includes approximately $480,000 for public art and another $144,000 for the Arts Culture and Creative Economy Fund. As mayor of Minneapolis will you increase arts funding? Keep it the same? Decrease arts funding? Why? (Note: You’ll first hear from Cam Winton, and then follow the above order, ending with Betsy Hodges)

3. Artists have long been a catalyst in neighborhood development. It’s an old adage that artists will move into a cheap neighborhood, revitalize it, make it desirable, and soon the property taxes and rent have gone up so much that artists can no longer afford to live there, and are obliged move on to the next cheap neighborhood. As Mayor of Minneapolis, what will you do to keep housing costs down so that artists and others who live close or below the poverty line can profit from the revitalization of a neighborhood, but not be gentrified out of it? (Jackie Cherryhomes answers first, with Cam Winton answering last)

4.  The City of St. Paul is outpacing Minneapolis when it comes to the influence individual artists have on the creation of the city. With its Artist in Residence program, the Cultural STAR grants,  and its new public art ordinance that strategically places the artist “upstream” in the development process, artists are now sitting at the same table as city planners, engineers, and architects.  As mayor of Minneapolis, what will you do to include artists in city planning and design process? (Stephanie Woodruff answers first)

5.  You are six months into your term as Minneapolis mayor. The Minnesota Orchestra musicians are still locked out, and have failed to agree to a new contract with orchestra management. Osmo Vanska is long gone. The newly renovated Orchestra Hall sits empty, and the thousands of classical music fans who would normally spend an evening in downtown Minneapolis for dinner and a concert several times a year are instead staying at home, or heading across the river for a performance by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. As Mayor of Minneapolis, what do you do? (Mark Andrew answers first)

6.  Tell us about your artistic interests – have you seen a play recently? Or attended a music concert? Who’s your favorite fiction author, or visual artist? Why? (Bob Fine answers first)

So what do you think of the candidates and their stance on the arts? Who would you vote for, and why?