MIMMI, the inflatable centerpiece of Secret City

Categories: Art
It looks like a giant floatation toy. MIMMI, the new temporary outdoor sculpture installed in the Convention Center Plaza, is Minneapolis's latest piece of public art. It was built using a $50,000 budget, and its designers spent that entire amount on materials. The work was implemented in part by the Convention Center, who hired Northern Lights executive director Stephen Dietz, the nonprofit organization behind the Northern Spark Festival, of which, before it was moved to St. Paul-only this year, MIMMI was originally intended to be part of.
Photo courtesy Meet Minneapolis 
"Our plan was always to have MIMMI unveiled during Northern Spark," says Gulgun Kayim, director of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy for Minneapolis. "When we found out it wasn't going to happen in Minneapolis, we knew we needed to have a public unveiling."

The sculpture will be a central figure in the upcoming Secret City festival this Saturday, which will feature performances and events that will draw people to the Convention Center and other locations along the newly coined Hennepin Avenue cultural corridor, including Block E, the Walker Art Center, areas in and around the Basilica, and the Midtown Greenway, which is hosting its annual Greenway Glow celebration.

MIMMI, designed by Brad Cantrell, Jack Cochran, Carl Koepcke, and Allen Sayegh, floats in the air, and, after sunset, changes color based on the "mood" of the city. This is determined through an analysis of tweets from people who identify as being from Minneapolis. The large balloon also "mists" when the mood of the city is determined to be high. The designers beat out 15 other finalists through a Facebook vote in the Creative City Challenge, a new program developed by the Arts, Culture and Creative Economy office last year. 

Photo courtesy Meet Minneapolis 
The goals of the Creative City Challenge include showcasing the under-appreciated plaza, drawing visitors out into the city, and providing opportunities for local designers. According to the Minneapolis Creative Vitality Index report, produced by Kayim's department, jobs for architects have decreased by nearly 20 percent in the last 10 years, and nearly 10 percent in the last three years, with landscape architects similarly suffering a decline, and other design professionals not doing much better.  

The Creative City Challenge was in part modeled after the Grand Rapids Art Prize as a way to talk about the creative community and attract attention to parts of the city that have problems or are underutilized. 

Another model was Millenium Park in Chicago, which is a great tourist draw. Kayim says that Jeff Johnson, executive director of the Convention Center, approached her and said that he'd like to have something like Chicago's iconic park.  

Chicago opened Millenium Park in 2004 on 24.5 acres of land near Lake Michigan's shoreline, in the heart of downtown. The park includes the Jay Pritzker Pavillion, where visitor's can watch concerts, Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden, and Cloud Gate, known familiarly as "The Bean," a giant reflective sculpture that became an instant icon of the city. The park draws five million people per year.

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