Public Hearing on Creative Sustainability in the Northeast Arts District

Hearing was held June 6, 2016, 6:00 -9:00 pm, at Chowgirls, Solar Arts Building, Minneapolis, MNne-arts-district-banner

Notes by Heather Tinkham

Photo credits: Flyover Films (

Event description:

“The Northeast Minneapolis Arts District (The District) is hosting a public hearing on Monday, June 6th (6:00-9:00 PM) to receive testimony focusing on the state of creative sustainability and the arts within The District and Northeast Minneapolis in general. Creatives who reside and/or live work within this area are representative of the many professions and businesses that contribute to the vibrant and socio-economic life of the community. What is the current state of knowledge? What has been the impact? What are the challenges? What are the skills, knowledge, and practical tools needed to ensure that the District and the Northeast Minneapolis creative economy can continue to thrive and grow? The public will be invited to identify key areas of focus and will be encouraged to create working groups to develop solutions and recommendations over a two-month period to be submitted to The District for further review and action.

Public testimony will occur from 6-7 PM. Speakers will have 5 minutes to present. Please indicate if you wish to speak. This is a first-come, first-serve opportunity and we cannot guarantee that everyone will have a chance to speak during the public testimony portion of the meeting. We encourage speakers to forward your presentation to the contact person listed below.

Herman Milligan, Jr., Ph.D./Board of Directors, Program Committee

Panel (in order):

NEMAD meeting panel
NEMAD meeting panel
  • Josh Blanc, artist, president of Northeast Minneapolis Arts District
  • Brandon Hallstrand. Northeast Investment Cooperative board
  • Tricia Khutoretsky, co-director of the Public Functionary, Arts Management adjunct professor at MCAD, MRAC board director
  • Paul Ostrow , NEMAA board Vice President
  • Kevin Reich, Ward 1 Council Representative

Invited Speakers:

  • Jacob Frey, Ward 3 Council Representative
  • Myron Orfield, Professor of Law, U of MN
  • Aldo Moroni, artist
  • Debbie Woodward, Northrup King Building manager, (pictured at left)
  • Loretta Bebeau, artist


Please note that these are to the best of my recollection and any errors are purely my responsibility. If I have misquoted you, please do let me know and I will correct my notes!

 Josh Blanc opened the meeting with a brief summary of the goal: how do we build a district that will outlast the current set of people who make up our creative district? The district is beginning its 21st year and it is time to reflect on where we intend to go. The district has grown over the past decades through a set of “funky happenings” to contain the artists and spaces that exist today.

Speaker Jacob Frey:

Jacob FreyHe seeks to maintain our current success and build on it for the future

  • How will do we do this?
    • Values and rents will rise
    • One goal is to avoid displacement of the art community while those values rise
    • This could be approached through affordable housing through subsidies for artists
    • Lessen the emphasis on parking requirements for art buildings since the creative community would not need to drive if they lived here
    • Support ordinance reform to require investment in public art
  • Josh asked: What can be done to support working art spaces? Jacob: Share the benefits of art spaces to developers, offer incentives for contracts to have artists and public art with collaborative art spaces
  • Kevin mentioned: We need to keep light industrial base for the city’s income base, so we would need to keep zoning that supports that. Jacob: He would support doing a kind of “historic district light” for the Logan Park area buildings, with fewer restrictions than are typical for a historic district but would encourage the reuse of the existing old buildings that are so popular.


Speaker Myron Orfield:

  • He has questions about the expensive “artists lofts”, where 400-600k value units have been subsidized by Minneapolis who has in general primarily built in non-white neighborhoods. There is a 14 yr. time limit on the AMill for example for it to be maintained as “affordable”; this project cost as much as 1000’s of units elsewhere and some units are occupied by people who are “artists” only in some vague form.
  • Minneapolis has a history of very segregated housing and schools, compared to Seattle and Portland which had similar laws and plans in the past but have shown very different results. There was a shift in the 1980s away from the funding model that had been working from 1971 – 1986 that included disbanded efforts to decrease segregation.
  • Jacob asked: How do you encourage artists in communities of color? Myron: Put investment properties in neighborhoods of color that is equal in value to those in the white neighborhoods.


Speaker Aldo Moroni:

  • Artists need to have facilities that are safe, clean and supportive. He has questions that includescreenshot-2016-06-14-14-15-28-e1466621152720
    • What does sustainability mean?
    • What is “green language”?
    • What is the role of politics in hanging on to artists?
    • Who is an artist?
    • Who is the creative class?
    • What is the economic impact of the creative class?
    • Are we limited to just the NE district or can we bring in other communities?
  • Paul responded: the NEMAA district in particular needs to stay within the physical space, but we do need to work with key partners around us.


Speaker Debbie Woodward:screenshot-2016-06-14-14-21-57

  • The history of the district and role of creating a specific area to invest in has succeeded by improving values
  • People need to remember that investors are very interested in the properties in the area as a result of these efforts
  • The costs to restore and maintain the old buildings do not go down simply because artists are being housed there.
  • Artists need to be intentional about what they are willing to do to support this area being a artist driven areas
  • NKB is very high in the number of artists and art spaces that it contains


Speaker Loretta Bebeau:

  • We need to help artists know how to get more written about the shows and art in the district
  • We need to encourage local publications to write about the arts more
  • Where are the arts being supported outside of the NE Arts District?


Panel comments:

  • We need to keep in mind that the artists were a “gentrification” of their own to the neighborhood that existed before we got here
  • We need to give up on thinking that we can somehow go back to the way things were and consider what, if anything, we want to “freeze” as it is
  • Josh: We do have a strong artist community, so how do we tap that group strength to move forward, given that we are in an environment that didn’t exist 20 years ago.
  • Josh: How do we become a successful mid-career artist community?
  • Tricia: We have a problem with not having a unified vision and concept of who makes up this community
  • Paul: We have to accept that we are in an ongoing set of changes and need to talk about how we can work together. NEMAA is there specifically for the artists; this needs participation of more than just the artists.


Public comments:

  • How do we support the development of large working spaces, such as those needed for installation artists? Josh: Would flex spaces help? Yes, if they allowed people to expand and contract the space they need, include large tools, loading docks, etc. that are required for very large projects.
  • Having live/work spaces helps as that is a format that artists thrive in. Can we change city codes to support more of this model?
  • Tricia: Gallery space is difficult to make work financially; so public support of that kind of venue would help.
  • Paul: There isn’t a lot of funding in Minneapolis that works like STAR in St. Paul to support art involvement with conventions and group events.
  • Should we consider licensing artists as they do in NY based on portfolios / shows / etc. that would provide a “certificate of use” . This could improve the quality of art in the district and allow for stipends to go to certified artists that are displaced by “gentrification” development. State representative Diane Loeffler: What would the next step be? How do you define who is an “artist” to receive tax or other benefits? Tax abatements need better accountability, but how do we enforce definitions of what is a “creative person” for developers? This would not include simply visual artists, for example.
  • What is the importance of the “Northeast Arts District” brand?screenshot-2016-06-14-14-16-00-e1466621281683
  • Diane Loeffler: She sees Minneapolis as the basis of the arts district, not just Northeast. She wants an arts education center for professionals and the community and space for artist cooperatives.
  • Josh noted the study on the economic impact of the creative community and that we need to remember that we are a big contributor to the area’s economy:
    • $831 million from the creative community
    • $870 million from sports
    • $270 from the craft beer industry
  • NEMAD is looking for people who are interested in writing for their Insights page in the Northeaster community paper.

Other resources for further information:

  • THE MINNEAPOLIS CREATIVE INDEX 2015: Understanding the Scale and Impact of Minneapolis’ Creative Sector, A report from the City of Minneapolis’ program on Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy:
    “The Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan region has maintained our CVI (Creative Vitality Index) ranking as sixth in the nation —this score is almost four times the national average for “creative vitality” in a region.”
  • Post from NEMAD on FB: If somebody says, “I want to build 600 apartments; why not be in the Arts District? That’s a nice living environment,” they’re looking at the environment as the magnet for why they want to be here. But they don’t understand that they have an equal responsibility to maintain this level of quality moving forward.…/yuval-bar-zemer-reimagining…
  • Options for Community Arts Training and Support report, from the Creative Community Leadership Institute, Intermedia Arts
  • August 2015 Bush Foundation grantee learning report: Community Foundation of Grand Forks and many other reports to be found at, such as from Northern Lights MN:
    Our main piece of advice to ourselves would have been to be honest with each other and to remember that tension among invested partners is not always a bad thing; in fact, it is an indicator that each partner truly has a stake in the process and the project. When we each struggled to have our priorities represented in the game, we were actually finding the right balance, which made the game stronger.”

Other similar prior events:

From the NEMAD newsletter:

Three Main Goals

of Arts District Planning

  1. Continue to discuss who we are as a community.
  2. Continue to define the vision of the next 10 to 15 years, in order to drive the decision making.
  3. Start a framework on how we can finance the goals of the district. This goal is only possible to discuss if the other two goals can be met.

Recent studies to consider reading:

  1. The Creative Vitality Index 2014 Update. Click to read. 
  2. Arts Districts & Economic Development study. Click to read.
  3. The Minneapolis Creative Index 2013 Report. Click to read. 
  4.  Arts Impact Survey & Report on Arts Activity within the District (2013). Click to read