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From public art to community gardens, civic-minded projects launched a wide range of efforts in 2011.
Many projects created or transformed public space. The Brownsville Farm converted a derelict lot into a farm yard for students. BioCurious created a hackerspace for citizen scientists. A new cultural center debuted in Brooklyn and open-air reading rooms popped up in New York. A Georgia bus stop got a makeover. One hundred metal monkeys were hung from a Michigan bridge. A town in Minnesota got a boombox installation. A woman left disposable cameras in parks.
Other projects made areas explorable. Nathan Wessel created an alternative city map with the Frequent Transit Guide to Cincinnati. Noah Jeppson designed a map for Dallas’ tunnels and skyways. Amelia and Jamie mapped Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. Brian Cook made a Hartford Museum Passport.
Civic motivations were a part of many projects. A photographer documented derelict rest areas, and filmmakers detailed the fates of California state parks set to close. Three New Yorkers unveiled a plan to turn the East River into a pool while two guys in Brooklyn delivered pool parties by bike. Philadelphia’s dance moves were turned into murals. The Cleveland Heights public library got a statue of Harvey Pekar.
And then there was Detroit, Kickstarter’s civic epicenter. Its projects created community gardens, art installations, greenhouses, pop-up shops, and software to map its ecology. A documentary on its beleaguered firefighters was a big hit, and it even got a Robocop statue. For Detroit’s creative community, Kickstarter was a WPA of sorts last year.
In a year that saw government funding on the decline, people took to Kickstarter to get things done. However humble or ambitious their goals, these projects point to a new approach to civic engagement and a new way to express a community's will.