Turning Northrop Inside-Out

ArtsFwd asks the Innovation Lab grantees: What is the biggest question you and your team are wrestling with as you head into the intensive retreat?

Northrop's facility on the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus.
Northrop’s facility on the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus.

This is the first post from Melissa Wray and Sarah Thompson about Northrop’s experience in the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts. We asked them to reflect on the team’s thinking before heading to a five-day focused retreat. Read more from the other Lab participants here. 

What is the biggest question our team is wrestling with as we head into the intensive retreat?

Heading into the retreat, the general atmosphere surrounding the Northrop Innovation Lab team is that of eagerness and excitement. After three months of incredibly productive and creative brainstorming where we wrapped our arms around many enormous ideas, we have finally distilled our good thinking to the point where we are ready to dig into the nitty-gritty details of creating a realistic framework for our prototype.

The biggest question that has surfaced in recent conversations, which will be at the center of our retreat planning, is how we begin to test a new model of collaborative, interdisciplinary programming before our facility reopens. The Innovation Lab period ends three months prior to Northrop’s grand reopening in April 2014. This constraint—which, for some, could be debilitating—has actually fueled amazingly inventive thinking that reimagines how we might utilize the outdoor spaces surrounding Northrop in the months leading up to the reopening.

A theme that is starting to act as a connecting thread is the idea of turning “Northrop Inside-Out,” bringing the new Northrop to life by animating every side of the building’s outside-facing walls with the kinds of programming that we will eventually take inside. Simultaneously, these efforts will signal to the community that “Northrop Is Open.”

Ultimately, as we crack open the possibility that exists when we move beyond our walls, there is an overabundance of potential solutions to this big question. We’re excited to further filter and focus these possibilities at the retreat to inform our final prototype.

About Northrop’s Innovation Lab project

Northrop’s project asks: How can we transform our revitalized facility into a hub of interdisciplinary creativity and innovation at the University of Minnesota that dynamically engages students, faculty, researchers, artists, and the greater community?

Melissa Wray is a communications professional working in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. As Marketing & Communications Associate at Northrop at the University of Minnesota, she writes and edits both print and online content, manages the Northrop blog and social media, works on student outreach, and much more. She is also a cofounder and Executive Director of Hazel & Wren, an online literary community that also hosts events in the Twin Cities area. Melissa will be starting graduate school in the fall for Arts & Cultural Leadership at the University of Minnesota.