Why Did Kresge Commit $1 Million to Minneapolis's Intermedia Arts?

The Kresge Foundation recently awarded $1 million to the Minneapolis-based organization Intermedia Arts for a three-year pilot of its Creative CityMaking program, proving that a sure-fire way to score foundation dollars is by pointing to a compelling track record of success.

Intermedia Arts is a multicultural arts center that serves as a nexus point between other organizations in the city. But what makes this recent award interesting is their backstory. The organization's deployment of the Creative CityMaking pre-pilot program was so methodical and successful that the Kresge grant was a no-brainer.

At the most basic level, Intermedia Arts differentiates themselves from other organizations, which is no small feat given the area's robust arts scene. And their mission statement is blunt. Visitors to Intermedia Arts will be exposed to "voices you are unlikely to hear anywhere else." Examples include their "Queer Voices" reading series, a multimedia festival celebrating the women of hip-hop, and "Indigenous Voices," which explores issues of identity and human rights among native populations.

Secondly, Intermedia Arts establishes deep relationships with local groups. The seeds of the Kresge grant for its Creative CityMaking program can be found in its successful pre-pilot program, "This is Our City!" where seven local artists worked with city planners on ideas to improve Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Third, Intermedia Arts sees these partnerships to fruition. Take the "This is Our City!" project, for example. This "creative citymaking exhibit" opened in November 2013 and will wrap up on March 8, 2014. And the results are tangible. The exhibit shows development plans for specific neighborhoods drafted by city planners and artists. The takeaway is unmistakable, as local artists can have a direct role in, quite literally, shaping the neighborhoods they live in.

Lastly, Intermedia Arts effectively promotes their successes. The "This is Our City!" exhibit had its own launch party, has its own website, and continues to solicit ideas from artists and citizens alike. On the heels of this successful pre-pilot, Kresge felt quite comfortable that subsequent funding would be put to good use.
In fact, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson went out of his way to praise Intermedia Arts, city officials, and other nonprofits for fostering “an ecology of artistic innovation and cultural creativity.”