The Mississippi River cuts through regions that define Americans today: North and South, urban and rural, Red and Blue. These categories have divided us and are the source of ongoing antagonism and conflict. In order to heal these divisions we must think and work across cultural, municipal and regional boundaries, developing ideas that connect us and embrace what we hold in common. With its rich cultural, artistic and musical legacies, we believe that the Mississippi River can support the creation of a collective identity through a public recognition of what we share as inhabitants of its riverbanks.
We propose to establish The Barge: a mobile culture center that travels the length of the river from near its headwaters to the delta, from Minneapolis to New Orleans. The Barge will make stops, bringing together diverse artists, culture workers, researchers, musicians and other practitioners to collaborate on public art projects that respond to environmental, local and regional issues, becoming a dynamic platform for community engagement and a catalyst of cross-sector collaboration. Embracing the river as a metaphor and infrastructure for regional connectedness, as well as environmental and economic interdependence, we aim to rethink and expand the possibilities of public art by connecting local action with open approaches that reach beyond municipal and regional constraints.
Because of the city’s proximity to the Mississippi River’s headwaters, Minneapolis holds the potential to become a powerful source of positive influence that propagate downstream. With this project, we are redefining the boundaries of public art as a massively collaborative enterprise that operates across cities, states, sectors and cultures.
Artists and culture workers can lead the way in re-defining civic engagement in an age of global connectedness. Through this project, Minneapolis can become a leader in establishing new approaches to urban identity and municipal responsibility.