Collective to open space for public

The area would be used for free resources, classes and public events.

Jennifer Bissell

With free places to meet limited mostly to libraries and parks, members of an anti-authoritarian collective plan to create an open space in Minneapolis where anyone can meet, learn and hang out.
The organizers behind the Minneapolis Autonomous Radical Space said the space would be welcoming to all, with free resources, classes and events.
âÄúI think creating public spaces that exist outside of capitalism is important,âÄù Amelia Smith, a MARS organizer and a 2009 University of Minnesota graduate, said. âÄúIâÄôm into the idea of free spaces that are public for people to meet new people, make connections and build community.âÄù
A location for the space hasnâÄôt been determined yet, but organizers are looking for a storefront in either Powderhorn or Phillips neighborhoods to open in early 2011.
To fund the space, the collective is looking for donations and roughly 50 regular contributors. While efforts to fundraise are still in their infancy, the group has raised a $1,100 and has about 15 contributors lined up.
The organizers are hoping to set up a library, a do-it-yourself media center through a partnership with Indymedia, art shows, concerts and classes by the Experimental College, a University student group.
âÄúThereâÄôs no space like that in the Twin Cities right now,âÄù said Eli Meyerhoff, a MARS organizer and University political science graduate student. âÄúThereâÄôs a real need for it. Many people involved in these communities need a kind of hub and physical space where they can connect with each other.âÄù
Meyerhoff, a representative of EXCO, said heâÄôd like to see the space used to teach people how to empower themselves.
The idea behind EXCO is that education should be free and accessible to everyone, and that anyone can teach and take classes in topics ranging from philosophy to computers.
âÄúItâÄôs kind of a grassroots, democratic form of education and it has overlaps with MARSâÄô mission of getting rid of forms of oppression and domination,âÄù Meyerhoff said.
David Pellow, a University sociology professor familiar with the project, said that although there is no space like this in the Twin Cities, the idea isnâÄôt uncommon.
âÄúIt builds on a long history of people developing alternative spaces, alternative venues, alternative places where social movements and critical thinking can take root around a whole host of ideas,âÄù Pellow said. The center will offer anti- oppression classes.
The center is âÄúa recognition implicitly, if not explicitly, that often times the halls of government and academia donâÄôt allow for these kinds of discussions to occur [effectively],âÄù Pellow said.
Currently there are radical spaces, all with anarchist themes, in Winona, Minn., and Madison, Milwaukee and West Bend, Wis.
Arise! Bookstore in South Minneapolis served a purpose similar to MARS, but went out of business in May due mainly to financial problems, Meyerhoff said.
Finding funding for a radical space can be difficult, and Pellow noted that just as many disputes within a poor organization could happen within a rich one.
âÄúThe best way to go about it is to look around and say, âÄòWhat resources do we actually have that donâÄôt require funding?âÄôâÄù Pellow said. âÄúYou can do pot lucks, you can have people exchanging favors and services for people in a non-monetary fashion.âÄù
âÄúIf you have that attitude, I think, then you can do a whole host of things,âÄù Pellow said.