On May 1, Public Functionary will leave its home of 7+ years to find a new space. Everything has a lifecycle. Everything must grow…
To everyone who loves Public Functionary,
Thank you. This space has been truly transformative. What began as a simple intention: make art space more inclusive, more accessible, (more fun!) evolved into the most fantastic journey to build a dream space with incredible makers of arts and culture.
Mike and I both have grown up in this space, learned who we are as humans, as creatives, as allies and organizers. We’ve learned how to both challenge and find our way through systems we often felt overwhelmed by. We’ve learned so much from artists. Youthful ambition gave way to an awareness of real issues and disparities in our communities, and this space became imperative.
It has been the space for beautiful creativity, new ideas, careers, celebration, relationships, healing and community growth. Public Functionary has also been the place of hard conversations and heartbreaking moments. It is a place of memories.
The “art scene” that I first began exploring around 2009 in the Twin Cities generally did not reflect me— for a self-taught curator, a woman of color — it felt largely unwelcoming. So I paid attention to how this space could feel welcoming. Over time, Mike’s ability to hustle and resource, and my desire to connect with people I could relate to, led to a space that said yes more often than no.
A space that didn’t take itself too seriously.
A space that could only survive in collaboration with others.
A space that changed shape over and over again.
We’ve never had a real “mission statement,” nor have we secured “nonprofit” status. Sometimes I wonder if we were doing it wrong. But I know our attention was instead focused on making space, not just in this location physically, but symbolically.
At the center of our thinking these days is the notion put forth by adrienne maree brown as a principle of emergent strategy: “what you pay attention to grows.” I think of Public Functionary and the work of the past seven years as part of a movement. While I do believe that the arts sector in the Twin Cities is finally making (slow) change towards inclusion, it was not long ago that conversation around who held power in the arts was barely audible. There are artists and arts organizers in this city who have been working to support unrecognized narratives and aesthetics long before diversity was a marketing trend or a funding initiative.
In “doing it wrong,” I believe that Public Functionary has made a notable impact. I believe that Public Functionary has established a new norm— that space cannot be a privilege. Space is how we gather, build energy, establish roots and channels of support. Without space, we cannot grow, we cannot nourish art.
I also believe that Public Functionary has advocated for understanding that aesthetic quality and community building can co-exist, and that both should be defined and cultivated with intention and inclusivity.
Nonprofit arts organizations are expected to strive for formalized programs, full-time paid staff, a space they own. And yet, it will still be a struggle. In the Twin Cities the “alternative art space” model is frustratingly futile. This context is multi-layered and complex. We know first hand, we’ve had to operate within it as much as we’ve pushed to orbit outside of it.
PF has been a philosophy, a platform, a place. It has never been an “organization.” And with this move, we’re not struggling, we’re trusting our intuition and thinking for the future. We know Public Functionary can be so much more. If it is nimble and flexible, then it is also scaleable.
The truth is, we have outgrown our space.
“Change is constant (Be like Water)”— also the wisdom of adrienne maree brown (inspired by Bruce Lee). Over the next year PF will flow like water, in search of new space to fill.
First, we're turning our attention to the cultivation of young artists. Not simply by giving them wall space but by truly investing in their potential. We invite you to explore Studio #400, Public Functionary’s new studio program in the Northrop King Building.
Second, we are searching for and strategizing a new, even better exhibition/performance space. A vision for this space builds on what artists and community have taught us— that there are no limits and that this work must continue.
To everyone who has made this space, a space — stay close, we can’t build the next without you.
Tricia Heuring (& Mike Bishop)