Last Spring I created a project called The Department of Change. The project stemmed from a house on my block and my encounters with city processes. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that the house was in a condemned state. In most people's minds (including myself) condemnation means "this house will be torn down." According to the City of Minneapolis this is not the case. Condemnation just means it sits there till enough people complain about it. This particular house had been vacant for years. As an artist I wanted to approach problem by asking myself, "How can art and design solve this problem?" My answer was a hand screenprinted realty sign that simply stated, “THIS HOUSE SHOULD BE DEMOLISHED.” The sign was meant to build awareness around the house's status and to shed some light onto the process for getting it razed or preserved. I know that demolition is not the answer to the majority of the condemned buildings in Minneapolis, but at the time I strongly believed that this house needed to be knocked down.
As a part of the CreativeCitymkaing, I have been selected to work with The City of Minneapolis’ Community Planning and Economic Development department on a survey of historic Minneapolis structures and landscapes. Over the last couple months I have been trying to immerse myself in books, video, and interviews about city planning and Minneapolis history. One of most informative resources that I have come across is The Lost Twin Cities, a book written by Twin Cities’ historian Larry Millet. The book inspired a TPT series of videos with the same name.
Irony has a way of working itself into art. A couple weeks ago I was watching the Lost Twin Cities in my living room when suddenly my house started to shake. I quickly ran upstairs and observed a massive excavator destroying the condemned house. A queasy feeling hit my stomach, a physical unease that made me question what I had set in motion.
Was I wrong to want this building removed? The only solace I have is the knowledge that I wasn’t the only person in the neighborhood that felt this way. The sign was a signal to the neighborhood to do something and the neighbors responded with their emails, phone calls, and letters.
In the coming year, I’m excited that the CreativeCitymaking project will allow me to explore the question of “What is worth saving?” I hope to work with CPED to spur discussions Minneapolis history and what find out what Minneapolitans find historically significant.