“Neighborland” project uses billboards to invite conversation about Twin Cities neighborhoods


What do you want in your neighborhood? Tell us: your neighbors, your city, the world. You can…really! It’s pretty easy now, thanks to the trio of Forecast Public Art, Clear Channel Outdoor, and Neighborland, which are involved in a new, innovative partnership bringing non-commercial public art to several electronic billboards (currently on Hennepin Avenue, but soon to be throughout the Twin Cities).

The billboards ask: “What do you want in your neighborhood?” Visit Neighborland.com and post your answer. Maybe someone else has your idea, too. Great! Click “Me Too” and become part of a collective mass. For those of us with work schedules that conflict with neighborhood meetings, perhaps Neighborhood.com will help us to deliver our ideas from afar and on our own time. (The Obvious Corporation, a new endeavor from Twitter co-founders that is helping build a new social media platform for people to shape the development of their neighborhoods, supports the national roll-out of Neighborland.)

Candy Chang, one of the founders of Neighborland, is an artist with a background in design, architecture, and urban planning. She’s also a neighbor who listens and thoughtfully provides opportunities for dialogue and communication using unexpected but down-to-earth methods. (A first attempt was painting one side of an abandoned house with slate paint and providing chalk to answer the stenciled question “Before I die, I want to …”) She poses experiments using artistic license. So like science, there’s an outcome that could be measured and used for other purposes, but like art, it may also simply help people think and “remember what’s really important to them.” Chang likes to “engage creative citizenry.” 

Jack Becker, Forecast’s executive director, explains that “Candy Chang’s work is at the intersection of public art, community engagement, and urban design. [It] touches on every aspect of art’s role in society and contributes to meaningful placemaking in our communities.” Clear Channel Outdoor MSP’s president, Susan Adams Loyd, has long been an enlightened supporter of public art having moved from artfully-muraled Philadelphia. Forecast had been talking with Clear Channel about how art and technology can work together and connect citizens to collectively discuss issues and propose ideas when the opportunity to launch the unique Neighborland initiative arose.

There are related Neighborland projects around Minneapolis. The Whittier neighborhood created a “Before I Die …” interactive wall (2609 Stevens Ave. S.) that coincides with Chang’s visit, and Plan-It Hennepin (an initiative to plan the re-invention of Minneapolis’ oldest street) was the catalyst in bringing Chang here to speak at the Walker. MPR has an engaging interview with Forecast’s Becker and Neighborland’s Chang on podcast, too. This is the time for Neighborland—and you, my neighbor—to be seen and heard.

Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Collaborative.