Measuring Minneapolis’ creative vitality


“Put ‘visual artist’ on your Schedule C [tax form] so I can count you,” said Gulgun Kayim, the City of Minneapolis’ director of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy. Her presentation, to a group assembled at Chowgirls Parlor April 22, a week after tax deadline, was one of many to be held about the Minneapolis Creative Index.

“The public sector, when doing its job, is data driven” and so is everyone else, said Minneapolis City Council Member Kevin Reich, introducing Kayim. The Minneapolis Creative Index, relying heavily on the Creative Vitality Index (CVI) developed by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), provides data that can be used year to year to compare progress and problems.

“The Creative Vitality Index data includes nuances of the creative sector that many other measures miss. It provides the City with data to compare Minneapolis to the metropolitan region and our metropolitan region to other regions across the country,” Kayim said.

“It will help us develop around our assets,” Kayim said, “to align our commercial with our creative development, and use the power of the creative sector.” She said she’s already been asked to come up with some policy statements in the context of Results Minneapolis. Council members are working on ordinance changes to, for example, allow jewelry making in a commercial node, or as Reich pointed out, allow recording studios, breweries, and flea markets in a neighborhood.

What does the CVI data say? It can be accessed online through this link: coordinator/arts. And, about 3,700 copies of the printed document will be mailed soon to potentially interested parties in the metro area. The Minneapolis Arts Commission will host a presentation on the document 3-4:30 p.m. Monday, May 20, at the Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall in the Pohlad Hall. Some highlights of the Minneapolis Creative Index are listed in a box accompanying this article, page 6.

One person asked if there would be a way to measure the building of social capital through arts. Kayim responded that ArtPlace America grantees in other parts of the country, further along than Minneapolis, are working on this. “Social capital” is loosely defined as “social relations that have productive benefits” according to Tristan Claridge on the website, 2004.

ArtPlace America is a national funding source, a collaboration of 13 foundations and six banks that work with the National Endowment for the Arts and other federal agencies “investing in art and culture at the heart of a portfolio of integrated strategies that can drive vibrancy and diversity so powerful that it transforms communities,” according to

Minneapolis recently received ArtPlace grants for the Chicago Avenue Arts District, Creative CityMaking, and Anpetu Was’te Cultural Arts Market. The person who asked the question is involved in the Chicago Avenue Arts District, coordinated through Pillsbury House.

Jennifer Arave of ArtShare, also featured on the April 22 program, talked about their life size book project, parade project of wearable floats, and the audio guided walking tours which all involved artistic products “by Northeasters, gifted to Northeasters, FUBU, for us by us.” These shared art experiences are examples of building social capital.

Doug Padilla, who said he is not a free-market capitalist, said he recently visited Santa Monica, which used to be a really special place, like what we want Northeast to be. “Now it’s horrible, it’s all chain stores. It’s ruined. How do you own your community? Property owners are selling to the chains. How do you stop them?”

Adelheid Koski, the volunteer chair of the Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association (which sponsored ArtShare and is where Reich made his first mark on Northeast as a project director), said this is one job for volunteers. “Neighborhood leaders need to

liaise to explain the importance of the arts.” She commented that the warehouses where art is made are isolated, that except for the events like Art-A-Whirl it is hard for residents to connect. “We have restaurants, perhaps we need pop-up galleries” on Central Avenue.

Kayim and Reich agreed that chains can be capped or discouraged. Reich said, “the chains won’t land unless the space fits their formula.” And through small area plans (a city planning tool) a neighborhood can stay unfriendly to those formulas.

Participating in such planning efforts is just one way to underscore the value of art. The other: If applicable, report income from art and declare oneself as an artist on the tax forms, so that the true creative density of a ZIP code can be measured.

Editor’s note: Margo Ashmore is a Minneapolis Arts Commissioner and served on the Steering Committee for the Minneapolis Creative Index 2013.