Announcing Hothouse: A pilot co-working project with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Published today on Speaker, my blog on ArtsJournal

Something new is launching in Minneapolis next week! I'm excited to announce Hothouse, a 12-week pilot co-working project I've created as MIA Entrepreneur in Residence. In collaboration with Hunter Palmer Wright, Venture Innovation Director of the Minneapolis Institute of ArtsHothouse will explore whether and how the museum can foster a creative co-working space that is inspired by the museum’s collections, capabilities, and setting but operates independently as a lively incubator and convener. The pilot will demonstrate new ways the museum can use its assets, including its facilities, collection, and staff, for imaginative new civic purposes, and will encourage civic connectors and animators to draw on the museum’s resources to power their individual and collective work and impact.

The project will allow exploration of a co-working strategy that is new to the Minneapolis-St Paul region. The vision for Hothouse is to create a space not only for co-working, but also for fostering public discourse and civic engagement, reflecting and amplifying ideas and projects from the co-working community, and inviting the public in as participants and co-developers. Participants interested in this public programming orientation have been intentionally recruited for the Hothouse pilot. The group includes artists, journalists, non-profit organizations, small businesses, and independent producers and consultants.

(Who will be there? Here's a list, some with links  -- the list is still growing. Lutman & AssociatesBen HertzCoffee House PressCollective Eye ProductionsCopilot Web ServicesDanger Boat Productions LLCThe Drawing Projecte-democracy/Open Twin Cities, Northern LightsPollenKate Nordstrum Projects, Chris Farrell (MPR))

The co-working group will share the MIA’s Villa Rosa Room, a large sunny meeting and event room on the top floor of the MIA, as well as using other museum spaces for programming. Co-workers will be encouraged to draw on the museum’s collection for inspiration and metaphor, collaborate with museum staff, and help identify opportunities and obstacles that can inform the feasibility of an ongoing co-working and alternative programming space. We'll share our learning in a final report.

During the 12-week pilot we plan to:

  • Explore the benefits of a co-working space connected to a museum
  • Identify new civic purposes for MIA’s less-used and rental spaces
  • Introduce new people to MIA
  • Discover ways the co-working community can draw on the MIA's assets across their varied occupations and disciplines
  • Identify obstacles to public participation as co-workers create programs independently and "beyond the museum"
  • oster new connections between co-workers and MIA
  • Encourage collaborations among the co-working participants that are new and actionable
  • Inform MIA future choices and directions

The Hothouse co-working pilot project has resonances for any cultural nonprofit that owns and operates its own buildings. What are the highest and best purposes for these structures and how can new creative uses be explored? How can we share infrastructure and ideas in new ways? And how can our increasingly independent workforce find ways to connect with each other and to cultural institutions in ways that amplify and extend the work? We will be working to discover the answers to these questions over the next twelve weeks. To track our progress, follow #Hothouse on Twitter.

If you think about it, there are all kinds of civic buildings --- wherever you may live -- that can be adapted to new uses and can become part of the sharing economy. If you know of other tests or projects going on that resonate with our ideas, please be in touch. And we'll let you know how things go.