Question: You were recently named the first Director of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy for Minneapolis. Can we just call you the arts czar?
Gülgün Kayim: Please don’t! I’m an advocate for all areas of the creative economy—media, design, advertising—not just artists. It’s a new way of thinking about urban planning, because we know that having a creative economy is important for a city to compete for jobs and tourism.
Q: What would a more creative city look like?
GK: I’m from London, so to me a creative city is about great public spaces, valuing playfulness and beauty as much as utility, and celebrating the things that make it unique. That attracts people.
Q: Won’t people move here for jobs, not aesthetics?
GK: There are jobs in New York. There are jobs in Portland. And you can picture those places. Can people picture Minneapolis?
Q: So how can you help?
GK: We can do zoning differently to allow more restaurants to spill out onto sidewalks, create more live/work spaces for artists, and allow more businesses to flourish at the sidewalk level.
Q: You don’t care for skyways?
GK: They keep us out of the weather and they make us unique. But they hide everyone in this city-within-a-city. We need more sidewalk life. Humanity is inspiring; we find each other compelling.
Q: The city tried blending form and function with the artist-designed drinking fountains. What happened there?
GK: Part of the point—inspiring people to use public water instead of bottled water—got lost in the conversation. Listen, if people didn’t think beauty was important, there wouldn’t be florists. There wouldn’t be gardens. Having a beautiful city isn’t a bonus, it’s essential!