Artists survey students on Dinkytown

Local artists are reaching out to the community as part of a partnership with the city.

Alexandria Chhith

With Dinkytown development in flux, city officials are seeking the opinions of University of Minnesota students on how they think the area should look.

City planners are conducting a public survey in collaboration with local artists as they draft Dinkytown’s small area plan.

The goal of the project, called the Creative CityMaking partnership, is to connect city planners with the public and hear from people who don’t typically go to city meetings or participate in traditional surveys, said artist Caroline Kent.

Three artists from Intermedia Arts took to the streets of Dinkytown last week to survey students and other residents about commercial development in the area. An online survey also opened last week, Maze said, so more people can voice their opinions.

Kent said 600 students and faculty completed the survey at the Community Involvement Fair in Coffman Union on Wednesday, and that students have made up 90 percent of the responses.

In addition to the surveys, the group toured Dinkytown last week with a “Mobile Engagement Theater.” The theater consists of a cart that scrolls through photos of the past, present and future plans for the area. Theresa Sweetland, Intermedia Arts director, said the theater is a visual way to get community feedback.

Responses from the community will be important when city officials form guidelines for the neighborhood, said Minneapolis Principal City Planner Haila Maze.

Minneapolis City Council would need to approve the guidelines, she said, but they would help incorporate the perspectives of people who would be affected by the development in Dinkytown.

“This is trying to build a policy, which will help the framework for what private and public [entities] can build in Dinkytown,” Maze said. “When a decision comes along, the guidelines will show what people want.”

Electrical engineering senior Joey Senkyr said he supports the initiatives to gather community input on the development in Dinkytown.

“I think it will present a balanced viewpoint that isn’t really biased towards the developers or towards … the community group that is against development or change,” he said.

Sweetland said the group is looking for the opinions of not only students, but also other people who visit or live in Dinkytown.

The partnership between Intermedia Arts and the city began in January with the goal of strengthening the connection between city planning and public opinion through art and other
strategies.

Senkyr said he liked the idea of the mobile engagement theater because it allows city officials to get the opinions of people who live in and use the area.

“I think that Dinkytown needs to continue to change and grow,” he said.