mini_polis is a scale model of downtown Minneapolis built in collaboration with community participants in a series of “build workshops.” We will collect place-based hopes and memories at the workshops and create a multimedia interface within the finished city model to share these stories. The completed mini_polis will be a physical platform for activities, from city classroom to stage set, and a magnet for social media.


Finished Sculpture

mini_polis is a map of Downtown Minneapolis installed on the front yard of the Convention Center. The base is a low platform that the miniature buildings are secured to, and “highways” ramp up to and over. Many of these buildings are constructed by participants at workshops, and bear writing describing the builder’s dreams for the city. Other buildings carry the dreams of residents who were not able to attend workshops, but wrote in their responses. The streetscape of mini_polis is painted with chalkboard paint, allowing visitors to respond to builder’s dreams, as well as make their own place-specific comments about the city.

At night, internal lights brighten the windows of many of the buildings, twinkling on an off on a programmed pattern. When a visitor approaches the multimedia station and presses a button, the lights go off, then prerecorded audio plays, telling the stories and dreams of building workshop participants as their neighborhood light up. 

mini_polis is a vehicle to carry builders’ and visitors’ voices, but it is also a physical platform for understanding the city. The simple act of walking along a walkway and looking down on the buildings nearby allows a viewer to see the whole neighborhood unhurriedly, unlike the limited view they get when they drive that real highway in a car. We hope mini_polis will inspire all kinds of people to come up with their own uses and activities.

The Process

A significant part of the mini_polis project is how it is made. Dozens of Minneapolis residents will help build the city, and share their stories for the multimedia station. Starting in April and continuing through May, we will hold 5 community build workshops with nonprofit and school partners in different locations. We will provide a pre-cut, pre-drilled kits to build a basic house or apartment, as well as tools and a staff from Leonardo’s Basement to ensure participants of all abilities can have a successful experience.


Our Team

SocialSculpture is a collaboration of artists bent on bringing creative agency to everyone. We see making as fulfilling a basic human need, and making in the public sphere as an inherently positive act that we want everyone to have access to. We are excited about the new emphasis on public participation in the Creative City Challenge, and would like to offer our unique blend of teaching, making, and collaborating skills for consideration. 

In our social art practice, we identify familiar objects and social habits - small social occasions, nostalgic children’s games, familiar rituals of hospitality. We deploy them in a way that channels the urban energy of the Twin Cities, and allows people moving down their well-trodden paths of habit to shift just enough to come into contact with one another, or have an experience that nudges them out of the ordinary.

Niko Kubota   Project Lead / Designer

Niko Kubota
Project Lead / Designer

Steve Jevning   Director, Partner Organization

Steve Jevning
Director, Partner Organization

Rick Cousins   Construction / Landscape

Rick Cousins
Construction / Landscape

Micah Roth   Lead Technical

Micah Roth
Lead Technical

Jon Reynolds   Engagement / Design

Jon Reynolds
Engagement / Design

Russell Rathbun   Storytelling / Editing

Russell Rathbun
Storytelling / Editing

Susan Armington   Storytelling

Susan Armington