Sep 25, 2019

A Microcosm of Change for Twin Cities Arts Organizations and Beyond


Artspace Immersion is a program run from the Consulting and Strategic Partnerships department at Artspace. Its goal is to provide each city-based cohort of arts and cultural organizations with the tools necessary to undertake transformative and sustainable space challenges.


The Twin Cities cohort wrapped up their 18-month experience with an event called Artspace Immersion: Spotlight, on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019, at The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts in Minneapolis. The hour-long program featured representatives from Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center, FOCI Minnesota Center for Glass Arts, FilmNorth, HUGE Improv Theater, the Playwrights’ Center, Public Functionary, Saint Paul Ballet and Element Gym (as CoMotion Center for Movement), Threads Dance Project, and Youth Performance Company all spoke passionately to their organizations’ space-related initiatives– the specific focus of their work over the past year and a half. Their five-minute presentations were frequently interrupted by applause, cheers, and laughter, especially as seven of the organizations shared news of newly secured sustainable space.

A fun and informative reception followed the final presentations. Cohort and audience members mingled, spoke of grand and new ideas, and shared resources over refreshments.

This celebration of the Twin Cities cohort happened to coincide with the beginning of Zamzam Mohammed’s internship with the Consulting & Strategic Partnership department. We invited her to share her observations on two of the participating organizations:


Dalton Outlaw, Founder and CEO of Element Gym. Photo by Willis Gilliard.

CO·MOTION Center for Movement

Serving as an art, athletics, and wellness collective, CoMotion brings the community together in a space of boundless possibilities, where people of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, shapes and sizes can come together to move, connect, grow, break boundaries, and build bonds. CoMotion was the result of the cross-pollination of two unique entities, Element Gym and Saint Paul Ballet. The two organizations provided their individual expertise to create a one-of-a-kind project under a unified theme of “stronger together.” Their partnership is unlike any other in the area and plays a vital role in community development in Midway St. Paul. Bringing like-minded people together under one roof was a first step in influencing change, and the reason CoMotion sought guidance from Immersion. “A lot of people have ideas, but not enough people are making plans,” said Dalton Outlaw, founder of Element Gym. Their bottom line is to serve as an incubator for smaller local organizations vested in the well-being of the community. The CoMotion space operates as a multi-use facility stretching over 39,000 square feet, where independent leaders and organizers can operate the different movement spaces. Equipped for fitness, martial arts, dance, and other forms of movement-based activities, the open space design encourages inclusivity and interaction, fundamental characteristics of a close-knit community. The new facility will allow CoMotion to welcome more community members, as it is centrally located and easily accessible in the Twin Cities.


Tricia Heuring, founder of Public Functionary. Photo by Willis Gilliard.

Public Functionary 

Artists and creatives of diverse backgrounds come together to express themselves and tell their stories through their art at Public Functionary (PF). Part of the PF mission and values are to “celebrate art and artists and their role in our world. We are building a practice and philosophy rather than an organization.” With arms wide open, PF welcomes creators from different walks of life and showcases their amazing work, all while maintaining programming, which has made their need for a larger space glaringly undeniable. 

By participating in Immersion, Public Functionary hoped to receive expert guidance from Artspace and to work closely with community partners and other organizations in similar situations, to assess ways to better serve their community. Their first step was the acquisition of a newer, larger space. “I think the Immersion cohort gave us the chance to step back and look at our overall mission and how that related to the space that we were in at the time,” said Tricia Heuring, Director and Curator of PF. After seven years of re-imagining new, creative ways to best make use of their one-room space, PF began searching for a new space – one that is equally conducive to nourishing new talents and allowing creators to be their authentic selves. Free from the restrictions the world places on artists — especially artists of color — PF serves as a multifaceted venue encouraging their creative endeavors. Capitalizing on the idea that helping artists grow directly encourages community growth, PF developed Studio 400 as a space where artists under the age of 30 can grow as creators. “It was a development we were not expecting. I think the cohort helped us understand space differently, which allowed us to make this very intentional move,” said Heuring. Nine emerging artists, whose work varies from drawing and painting, to digital media and photography, are a part of the inaugural cohort for this new studio space. Giving these young artists the space and resources to produce and present their work to a bigger audience is the experience PF hopes to extend to many other artists of color and Indigenous backgrounds.