Turning Our Eyes Forward – Essay by Deborah Cullinan, Executive Director of Intersection for the Arts


Intersection for the Arts’ Executive Director and key driver of 5M PlaceWorks recently published an inspiring essay in the theater journal HowlRound. She tells the story behind Intersection’s involvement in the 5M project and evolving understanding of creative placemaking and the role of arts organizations in transforming communities, “defining Placemaking as a sustained convergence of inspiration, connectivity, and opportunity...a process—much like the process of making theater—where people come together to create inclusive places and experiences.”

The essay poses and speaks to the questions, “How will we make art that speaks to the increasingly diverse and fractured communities that make up our cities? What do people want and need now, and what is the role of art?”

The essay itself as well as the comments that follow it illuminate the emerging dialogue surrounding our work here as well as its relevance to a broader movement.

check it out here: Turning Our Eyes Forward by Deborah Cullinan – HowlRound.

Wendy MacNaughton, PlaceWorks first Artist-in-Residence!


Wendy MacNaughton will be the first 5M PlaceWorks artist-in-residence starting in February 2012, and we are stoked! She spent two weeks in informal residence with Intersection for the Arts in fall 2011 working on Around Here, a piece for the Intersection5M gallery’s map-themed exhibition, Here Be Dragons.

Installation view of "Around Here" by Wendy MacNaughton at the Intersection5M gallery

See a video of her talking about that work here.

The installation came together in a narrative form through, Meanwhile at 6th and Mission,  one of Wendy’s Meanwhile, columns for the Rumpus, a series of illustrated investigations of San Francisco communities.

We’re hoping the residency will give Wendy the opportunity to continue some of the innovative work she started in mapping and otherwise chronicle-ing the neighborhoods surrounding the 5M campus…

…and give members of those communities opportunities further opportunities to share their stories.

Wendy’s Around Here installation will be moved from the Intersection5M gallery to the 5M lobby and will expand over the course of the year as she adds additional portraits and stories.

Are Cities Making Us More Human?


Wendy, 5M PlaceWorks artist-in-residence, called our attention to this essay in The European MagazineEdward Glaeser | Humans, cities and the environment – Cities Are Making Us More Human. It speaks to the optimism underlying 5M PlaceWorks as a model for conscientious urban development. Also see The Empathic Civilization | Jeremy Rifkin for an EXPANDED look at how we’re all becoming better people.

Creative Placemaking in North Oakland

Our neighbors across the Bay creative placemaking rethinking public ark in a Place Works spirit:

“It may not be the most appropriate strategy to have a sculpture in a public space because it might be that, as far as the needs of that community, a sculpture may not represent what that area would really like…It could [instead] mean doing an oral history project, or something more functional that would actually be useful….Like a community message board…Where people can find out about who’s in the community.”

Exactly! Along those lines, look out for the 5M PlaceWorks message board on the West facade of the Chronicle Building on Mary Street at Mission in February…

Neighbors working to create a sense of place in the Golden Gate District – Oakland North : North Oakland News, Food, Art and Events.

Art + Twitter + Public Space (Creative Time Tweets)

Creative Time recently tweeted (my first time using that verb!) an essay on its site earlier this year, where Shane Brennan summarizes their project, Creative Time Tweets. Creative Time Tweets credits Twitter with expanding the definition of public space and tests its power through three commissioned Twitter performances.

Man Bartlett, #24hPort, 2011

Man Bartlett, #24hPort, 2011: Where have you been?, Where are you going?

Brennan’s essay cleverly articulates the premise of the project, positing Twitter as a new metropolis and urging arts organizations to rethink public art as inclusive of digital as well as physical space:

In less than five years, Twitter has grown into a public sphere much larger than any physical metropolis (as of this writing, it has around 200 million users)…This intangible city contains a multitude of smaller, public gathering places, defined not by geographical or physical boundaries but by a user-generated feature called a hashtag, a word or phrase paired with the # symbol that can be appended to tweets in order to organize them into a cohesive conversation. Hashtags function somewhat like plazas or cafes in a physical city; they are zones of interactivity where people may congregate to discuss a particular topic, debate an issue, or share information. These spaces within the Twitter-opolis are a natural place for artistic interventions. If Twitter has become a megacity, public art cannot be far behind.1

More here.

The Disappearing Barriers Between Business And Nonprofits Are Driving Innovation


A recent article in FastCompany calls attention to The Disappearing Barriers Between Business And Nonprofits”, which has driven much of the thinking behind 5M Place Works and its relationship to the 5M Project, and the collaboration between a small arts organization and a major real estate company writes, “Gone are the days when businesses existed to make money and nonprofits focused only on making the world better. Now both organizations are influencing each others’ practices and finding ways to work together.” Read more here.

5M Place Works is just the beginning of a broader effort to offer stewardship during the complex process of redeveloping four acres of prime real estate in San Francisco, as discussed here in the Francisco Business Times.

Crowd-sourcing Urban Innovation

In 2011, the earth’s human population surpassed seven billion and for—the first time in history—the majority of humans live in cities. These demographic shifts have registered an impact; great minds have been weighing in on appropriate responses and several forums have emerged inviting mass participation in that effort. These efforts all straddle the (dot) org / (dot) com divide and reflect a belief in the wisdom of crowds.

Design and Innovation consultants at IDEO created OpenIDEO, a online platform for creative exchange about the great challenges of our time, including the question of How might we restore vibrancy in cities and regions facing economic decline? The challenge themes—Create Connections, Empower Youth, Design for Well-being, Amplify Citizen Voices, Re-purpose Spaces, Foster Local Identity, and Enable Entrepreneurship—resonate strongly with the goals of 5M Place Works. The quality of the proposals emerging in the concepting phase is exciting as our the precedents the site is collecting. Check out the beautiful Wynwood Walls in Miami.

The project is featured in the pilot of HERE COMES THE NEIGHBORHOOD, a Short-Form Docuseries exploring the power of Public Art and innovation to uplift and revitalize urban communities.


Almost simultaneous to the OPENIDEO challenge, the great minds at TED invited the public at large to offer solutions to a similarly broad query by awarding their prestigious annual 2012 TED prize to the “idea” of City 2.0, the city of the future and calling for the ignition of a “massive collaborative project.” Ideas registered here: A [now closed] conversation on TED.com: If you could make a wish on behalf of The City 2.0, what would it be?.

On still another scale, The Institute for Urban Design of New York City—in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) invites submissions for an exhibition documenting crowd-sourced placemaking actions to be held at Venice Architecture Biennale, under the heading “Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good.” The exhibition will document, in their words, “a nascent movement of designers acting on their own initiative to solve problematic urban situations, creating new opportunities and amenities for the public. Provisional, improvisational, guerrilla, unsolicited, tactical, temporary, informal, unplanned, participatory, open-source—these are just a few of the words that have been used to describe this growing body of work.” 

This further references the trend of crowd-sourced interventions catalogued variously as ParticipatoryDIY, and Tactical Urbanism.

These three initiatives that along with ArtPlace and many others speak to the convergence of energy towards creative and participatory placemaking in U.S. cities, to which 5M Place Works will contribute.