People-powered carousel

Photo of kids on the ArtsWok CarouselPhoto credit: Juxtaposition Arts

When we asked people who live, work, and play in Northside Minneapolis what kind of fitness area they might like, they told us: something unique that could be used by neighbors of different ages, and that was social, encouraging interaction with others. They also wanted it to look and feel like it had been made in the community, rather than on an assembly line. The result is the People-powered carousel, a merry-go-round driven by the people who pedal it.

The idea emerged from a 2014 community engagement process coordinated by The Trust for Public Land in partnership with Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA), an arts-education and empowerment program for young people. To solicit ideas, youth-apprentices and staff hit the streets to talk to Northside residents about outdoor fitness. What we heard led us to envision a human-powered carousel, made by a local artist or designer, which could be moved to different Northside locations.

Created by Brandon Brown, a Northside designer and owner of Onyx Cycles, and Christopher Lutter-Gardella, a local sculptor–and with funding from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation–the carousel was installed in the pocket park next to JXTA’s headquarters in 2016. Since then, we have tested the carousel, made improvements, and watched hundreds of children and adults enjoy it. It is a popular attraction during events like FLOW Northside Arts Crawl, Slow Roll MPLS bike rides, and Open Streets, and it is used regularly in the warmer months by neighborhood children, who find dozens of ways to play on it that we never imagined.

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Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than 3.3 million acres and completed more than 5,400 park and conservation projects.