Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Guerrilla Civic Hacking: Portable Artist Workspace & Street Made By People

It’s been a while since I did a post on guerrilla civic hacking, and I recently saw a couple intriguing articles about DIY urbanism type hacks. So today you get a look at two potential community projects for NE Wisconsin that don’t involve coding or computers. Or at least that’s not the main focus of these projects.

The first article is from Meeting of the Minds, “Artist Workspace Prototype Rolls Down Market Street.” Meeting of the Minds is 'a global knowledge sharing platform dedicated to bringing together a carefully chosen set of key urban sustainability and technology stakeholders and gathering them around a common platform in ways that help build lasting alliances. MotM believes that such a platform is a vital ingredient for smart, sustainable and equitable urban (re)development strategies. They focus on the innovators and initiatives at the bleeding edge of urban sustainability and connected technology.'
Meet Studio 1, San Francisco’s 2nd Living Innovation Zone and mobile art studio. Studio 1 is a 65 square foot “off the grid” solar powered studio, public art project, and micro-residency center...Studio 1 brings artists to the streets to interact with the public – allowing the community to be part of the design and exhibition process... 
“In the past few years, the City has worked with the community to revitalize Market Street by attracting new jobs to the area...keeping our community-oriented arts organizations in the neighborhood and activating the street with initiatives like Living Innovation Zones,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “This Living Innovation Zone is a forward-thinking prototype that creates affordable space for artists to engage directly with the public on one of our City’s busiest thoroughfares… 
Built on the back of a flatbed trailer, the Studio is made primarily of reclaimed and salvage materials with features including an integrated video projection screen and motion activated undercarriage LED lights. 
The Studio is a mobile LIZ, sited at NEMA and Mechanics Plaza during the summer of 2015. The project is one of several structures Szlasa has built for artists and creative people in response to the need for alternative models for artist work space in growing economies like the Bay Area. According to the creator...“Studio 1 is a prototype for a scalable, sustainable solution for art spaces in under-resourced areas.” 
For a week at a time from June 17th to July 25th, artists curated by Szlasa and the San Francisco Arts Commission are occupying the Studio. Each artist-in-residence represents a mix of disciplines and will develop programming schedules to complement the natural traffic patterns of the location, scheduling open studio hours and exhibitions on a regular basis...”
I’m not an artist or a frequenter of downtown areas, but I think something like Studio 1 would be a fantastic guerrilla civic hack for Green Bay, Appleton, or one of the other NE Wisconsin cities that has a reasonable amount of downtown foot traffic during the day and evening.

It also seems like something that the art community would be enthused about. Getting more exposure and personal interaction with people while you’re working seems like a great way to get a new perspective on your art.

We’d have to check on ordinances and get city permission for the space(s) where Studio 1 would be located, but it doesn’t take up much real estate, and it seems like the downtown associations in the cities would be eager to help get permitting or city bureaucracy issues figured out.

We could have the design and building of Studio 1 be a collaborative project between Proto GB, the Appleton Makerspace and several other groups. We could do concurrent discussions this fall with downtown associations in Green Bay, Appleton, and other NE Wisconsin cities that indicate strong support for the Studio 1 concept to figure out which city is most receptive to the first instance of this portable artist workspace. During the winter we could recruit sponsors and artists and start building the first Studio 1. And when the weather gets nice enough in 2016 for artists to work in the studio without heat, we could launch our first major guerrilla civic hack for the region.

Click here for a PDF with more info about Studio 1, and click here for a San Francisco Chronicle article about it.

If this sounds like the perfect civic hack project for you to work on, let me know, and we’ll figure out Next Steps!

The second DIY urbanism article was “Streets Made By People.” This one seems a little more challenging to do than the portable artist workshop, but it would be interesting to try to create Living Streets in a few NE Wisconsin cities for at least a couple weeks (the article talks about keeping them vehicle-free for several months).
In recent years, more and more initiatives try to counter the important role of the car in urban streets. Projects like PARK(ing) Day and Neighborhood in Motion show how the removal of cars affects the urban space and the mindsets and lifestyles of the residents. Ghent has another bottom-up approach where 16 residential streets were transformed into collectively created spaces for no less than 2.5 months... 
In order to make people feel what a difference it makes when streets are used by people instead of cars, they came up with the idea of ‘Leefstraten’ which translates as Living Streets. Leefstraten is an experiment that enables inhabitants to transform their street into a place they’ve always dreamed of. By removing the cars and finding other places for parking, new space came available that were turned into places with slides, hen houses...and a lot of astroturf and picnic benches. 
One of the most interesting elements is that the process is led by the inhabitants themselves. All the locations have a different outcome resulting in a different use or no use at all. The inhabitants all have their own ideas on how to use the street, which makes up a very local decision making process... 
When everything comes together and a street is turned into a living street, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t feel satisfied!...”
A Living Streets project in our area would be valuable simply for the conversations and citizen engagement that it initiated. First there would be discussions with city officials about whether they’ll go along with the concept. If the government approval was secured, then comes the process of selecting which of the available areas would be turned into a Living Street. After the location is decided on, the biggest challenge arrives, which is getting the residents of the Living Streets to agree on what will spring up on their streets.

If someone wants to start the process of working toward a Living Streets project, it might make sense to begin with several PARK(ing) Days (if that’s not already done in our region), with one-day or weekend experiments of turning parking spaces into mini-parks. The 'official' PARK(ing) Day is the third Friday in September.

If decreased dependency on cars and increased interaction between neighbors is something you can get excited about, maybe becoming the PARK(ing) Day Queen or King of NE Wisconsin is something you should tackle. You could be the key person in creating a new tradition for our region. Like the article said, “When everything comes together and a street is turned into a living street, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t feel satisfied!


The previous two posts about Guerrilla civic hacking were:

Are They Right To Stop Guerrilla Street Repairs?

Guerrilla Civic Hacks: Onomatopoeia & Tweeting Potholes, DIY Urbanism


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