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    UrbanArt Commission and Planning Division Team Up for Memphis 3.0

    Andy Meek

    The UrbanArt Commission’s partnership with the city-county Division of Planning and Development to hire three artists to join the Memphis 3.0 team is the commission’s “most exciting development” in its relationship with the city in more than a decade.

    That’s according to UrbanArt Commission executive director Lauren Kennedy, who said embedding artists in the city’s comprehensive planning process will invite artists to “flex muscles” they aren’t always given credit for.

    She was referring, for example, to abilities like creative problem-solving and the ability to create an emotional connection between a subject and an audience.

    Memphis 3.0 is the city’s first comprehensive planning effort since 1981. As part of that effort, a strategic plan is being developed to set out a new direction for the city that elevates its collection of neighborhoods and maximizes the quality of life for all residents.

    The UrbanArt Commission’s selected artists will facilitate neighborhood conversations by developing creative approaches to discussing connectivity, sustainability, livability and opportunity across the city. And artists will collaborate with the planning team to “amplify and diversify” voices that are working to shape the city’s future.

    “There are great examples across the country like in Minneapolis where artists are being engaged not to produce an object but to further a process and develop innovative approaches in cross-sector partnerships,” Kennedy said.

    She added that the commission is excited to be working with John Zeanah, deputy director of the city-county Office of Planning and Development, and his team on the project.

    “Not only because of the new opportunities in front of local artists and UAC, but because they really appreciate the value that art and artists are bringing to the table,” Kennedy said. “And that means the world.”

    Ahead of the artist application process opening up in February, UrbanArt Commission is leading two training sessions with consultants from Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, which has led this same kind of work with that city.

    Carrie Christensen, creative citymaking program manager at Intermedia Arts, explained how that work unfolded in Minneapolis.

    “Artist-planner teams generated new tools that allowed the planning process to extend their reach to gather input about issues, from long-term transportation and land use to the immediate economic and social conditions facing Minneapolis neighborhoods,” Christensen said.

    “Working together, the artist-city staff teams brought new voices into the conversations and processes that determine the city’s future. (And) more than half of the respondents and participants reported not previously taking part in any city planning processes.”

    The sessions in Memphis will cover things like artist collaborations with city government, a discussion of the comprehensive city planning process and more. Those sessions will be held Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library and Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. at Orange Mound Gallery, at 2232 Lamar Ave.

    Artists and creatives with an established practice in fields that include visual arts, performing, craft, design, video, multimedia, interdisciplinary and/or multidisciplinary art are encouraged to apply.

    Artists must be living and working in Memphis and have attended at least one of the January information sessions in order to apply.

    The three artists positions will be part-time contract positions – at 25 hours a week – from August 2017 through October 2018. A $25,000 stipend will be paid to each artist along with additional project funds available throughout the planning process.