Earlier this month, I had the honor to attend the grand opening celebration of the first new Spark’d Studio at Harrison Park. The Spark’d Studios are one culmination of the Minneapolis Park Board’s deep commitment to serving youth in new and innovative ways.
Spark’d Studios are new creative technology spaces being built by Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to support self-expression, interest-driven activities, and self-actualization for young people within our parks. A total of six studios will open by 2025 to serve youth, offering free media arts programming and after-school access to studio equipment for young producers to develop meaningful practices and creative projects. The studio at Harrison includes new Mac computers with design and editing software, a professional sound recording booth and audio engineering station, musical instruments, video cameras, lighting kits, backdrops, tripods, gaming stations and 3D printer among other resources. In addition to Harrison Park, other locations span the city: Powderhorn, Whittier, Luxton, Phillips, and Graco Parks.
The launch of the Spark’d Studios in our Minneapolis recreation centers deserves all the accolades and attention. While the Minneapolis Parks Foundation was involved by hosting a design camp last summer and staff provided insight into the design of the future studios, the vision and implementation came from Superintendent Al Bangoura and MPRB staff. These studios are a demonstration of the Minneapolis park system meeting the community and children where they want to be and delivering programming and resources in our parks at a higher level. As Superintendent Bangoura has said on many occasions: “Good enough is not good enough anymore,” and these Studios rise to meet his challenge.
At the grand opening and ribbon cutting, Minneapolis Park Commissioner Alicia D. Smith shared with the audience that Harrison Park recreation center was important to her growing up and she would visit the park and recreation center often. She urged the community to celebrate Black History Month by exploring and understanding the contributions by African Americans to our nation and world and pointed to the Spark’d Studios as a place to grow future leaders. It was hard not to be inspired hearing her remarks.
In addition to the capital investment in these new spaces, staffing support is funded through a unique commitment by Mayor Jacob Frey on behalf of the City of Minneapolis to invest an additional $2.6 million annually to the Park Board to hire new youth development staff specifically to meet the growing opportunities– some of those positions will be dedicated to programming and operating these new studios.
It’s easy to throw around words like “transformative” and “innovative,” but they are right for this moment. I am inspired by the commitment and vision of Superintendent Bangoura and the Park Board leadership in developing a bold future for parks and then delivering on that vision through partnerships, leadership, and resolve.
While the impact of this investment won’t be fully realized for a generation, any child growing up in Minneapolis now has access to the tools that can spark their imagination and provide real skills to navigate the 21st Century economy. The Spark’d Studios are yet another way in which parks can improve lives and provide opportunities for all.
Featured image: Gathered for the Spark’d Studios grand opening at Harrison. All other photos courtesy MPRB.