On Sunday, thirty two magazine kicked off its series “A Movable Feast – Urban Gatherings to Celebrate the Cities” at the Paper Darts Pop-Up. It was a simple idea: get a bunch of strangers together to inspire a conversation about the creative future of the Twin Cities. At thirty two, we don’t see creativity as something that belongs to the arts alone – instead, we’re curious about the human drive to create across all disciplines, including urban design, science and technology.
As the night drew nearer, however, my nerves started to rattle. With people of so many different backgrounds attending, all ditching a balmy summer night to sit down with strangers, would our little experiment succeed?
As it turned out, equipping each guest with a colored pen and a piece of paper was all we needed to do to get the conversation flowing. We asked a number of conversation starter questions, prompting attendees to write down their answers and then move to the next seat. This spin on ‘musical chairs’ allowed each guest to read their neighbor’s answers, and add on to them with their own thoughts.
We used the table decoration to give subtle cues -- literary quotes about our region were printed on paper luminaries, and pull-out quotes from our own publication were placed on stickers across the table, including Frank Bures’ widely read critique of the Creative Class theory, and his insight that “… it may be wiser to create the place you want to live, rather than to keep trying to find it.”
But folks needed no cues. As it turned out, guests easily connected over their shared passion for their city, and indeed, over the shared opportunities to create the place they want to live.
At the end of the night, we found ourselves with dozens of sheets of paper teeming with ideas and thoughts, and glimpses into the worlds of strangers, both oddly familiar and intriguingly different.
As expected, the question “What do you love most about the Twin Cities?” yielded familiar answers, but also eloquent explorations of our sense of place: “It is still considered an up-and-coming city. For the most part, you can still be a part of change and a newness that seems to pair so perfectly with the lasting nostalgia of the Midwest.”
Asked about what we’re lacking, or don’t have enough of, many guests – and by no means only the twentysomethings -- wanted to see a more vibrant late-night culture and late-night transportation. The most frequent answer, however, was a call for more candid and open conversations, for more irreverent humor and no-apologies honesty. And there was this: “I would love to see the appreciation of culture, food, music and architecture that exists within the Twin Cities spread outward until it takes over the suburbs and the Mall of America implodes.”
Throughout the night, we paid homage to our literary host by adding readings of poems by Dallas Crow and a short story by Katie Sisneros--courtesy of the latest Paper Darts short story contest-- who drew laughs with her tale about a sloth gone wild.
At the end of the night, I left both exhausted and happy, kicking myself a little for letting my nerves get the better of me. After all, readers of thirty two and of Paper Darts -- and people in general -- are pretty darn cool. A big thank you to everyone who participated and helped make this a memorable night – we can’t wait to do it all over again at the Soap Factory on July 12 with Andy Sturdevant!
Photos By Louisa Podlich