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Works Progress

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Works Progress

Address: 1901 5th Street Northeast, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55418
Email: hello@worksprogress.org
Website: http://www.worksprogress.org/
Phone: (612) 839-0810
Open Hours: We are in the storefront most days from 9-5PM. Come say hello!
How is the project operated?
We’re an artist-run low-profit business.

How long has it been in existence?
Works Progress was founded in 2009.

What was your motivation?
We originally created Works Progress with a small group of friends to be an umbrella organization for a handful of public projects dating as far back as 2007: Solutions Twin CitiesSalon SaloonGive & Take, and the now closed alternative art and community space, West Bank Social Center. We realized that these disperate projects had a common thread running through them: to create opportunities for people in the Twin Cities to engage more deeply with ideas and with each other. We thought to ourselves “what would happen if we started to take this work seriously as a kind of public practice?” We created a website, combined our mailing lists and social networks, and started building something together. It’s obvious now, in hindsight, that a driving motivation was that we wanted to quit our full time jobs and make a living doing what we loved.

Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
Originally there were four core members: Colin Kloecker, Shanai Matteson, Ben Shardlow, and Troy Gallas. We’ve evolved over the years: started out as a collective, flirted with formalizing as a non-profit, and are currently making it work as a public art and design studio. Works Progress is now co-directed by Colin Kloecker and Shanai Matteson.

How are programs funded?
Funding varies project by project and we’ve built up a really diverse income stream over the years:

  • Minnesota is super supportive of the arts and there are a number of granting organizations for individual and community based projects.
  • Often times we pull together a team of partner organizations and write a collaborative grant to fund a project with shared goals.
  • We’ve also had success using crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter and GiveMN.
  • If appropriate, a public program might have a sliding-scale admission that helps out with project costs.
  • More recently, we’ve been lucky to have a number of commissioned projects and have really enjoyed working in that way.
  • Sometimes we operate as a design studio with clients like neighborhood organizations working on specific outreach and engagement projects.
  • Finally, we offset our operating expenses by sub-leasing an apartment and studio/work space in our building.

Who is responsible for the programming?
Matteson and Kloecker are responsible for the overall direction and focus of Works Progress projects, but one of our core tenants is to work in collaboration and partnership with people and organizations we admire so projects often have multiple stakeholders. We’re also fortunate to have an amazing networks of co-conspirators to draw from when the project calls for a specific skill set.

Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We probably produce about 25 events or projects per year, some of them are ongoing series.

What kind of events are usually organized?
We produce small to mid-sized public programs (Solutions Twin CitiesSalon SaloonGive & TakeRiver City Revue) and other participatory public art projects (Neighbor MakersA PUBLIC THINGA Mile in Our Shoes). We’ve partnered with the Walker Art Center on a number of public programs (Opening the FieldCommons CensusField Office Fellowship). In 2012 we started working on a series of short films about local artists (State of the Artist). We’re increasingly interested in working as artists/designers at the neighborhood level with community associations, and currently have a handful of art and design projects underway.

How is your programming determined?
We produce projects that are interesting to us and hopefully meaningful to others. Sometimes funding determines which projects we prioritize, but all of our work is driven by what we are passionate about.

Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Not at the moment, but we just moved our studio into an old corner grocery store in Northeast Minneapolis and are planning to launch a residency program in 2013. We hope to be accepting proposals for projects sometime next year.

What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
We create collaborative projects that inspire, inform and connect; catalyzing relationships across creative and cultural boundaries; and providing new platforms for public engagement. We’re especially interested in creating projects where art, design, science, and civics are practiced publicly and in conversation with each other.

What’s working? What’s not working?
We’ve been able to support ourselves at this for 2 years now, so something must be working! We love our work, and have been able to expand our network of collaborators and audiences over the years in ways that are exciting and make the work better. We are constantly in a state of learning as we go. What’s not working? Some people see us as “messy” and confusing that can scare away potential funders or supporters.

What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
We hope to continue creating work that helps catalyze a sense of place and community, connecting people and ideas that might otherwise remain disparate. We’re preparing to open up our storefront, Whole City, for public programs and projects that explore the multi-disciplinary public practice of city-making. We see an increasing need for a place in the Twin Cities where this practice can be archived, expanded upon, and built up in community.

What idea are you most excited about for the future?
Both Saint Paul and Minneapolis have embraced artists as professional city-makers and are giving them a seat at the table in city departments like Public Works and Planning. This is incredibly exciting to us!
Images courtesy of Works Progress.

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