University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota


About River Futures

In 50 years, the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities will likely be a significantly different place than it is now.

Currently an (apparently) stable water body is the location for recreational trails and high-end, amenity-oriented housing, with only a few relic holdovers from the period when the river was the heart of an industrial city. Parts of the river occasionally flood, and are an inconvenience to recreational users for a week or two, but the river is by most accounts “the front door to the cities” and a destination attraction.

Conditions will undoubtedly change in the foreseeable future.

Climate changes promise to alter the region’s hydrology in ways we can’t fully anticipate. Invasive Asian carp may (or may not) have infested the waters, making them virtually unusable by recreational boaters. Long term design/planning visions such as Great River Passage (St. Paul) and RiverFirst (Minneapolis) will have been in place for a considerable length of time, and may have spurred multifunctional landscape development combining water management and carbon sequestration, for example, or urban agriculture in the floodplain. If the visions of some artists have come closer to fruition, then the water/land connections will be inscribed in the corridor through art, as will the concept that the whole region is “Dakota homeland,” the point of origin for Dakota people.


Competition Statement

Students at the University of Minnesota (limited to Honors students and students who have consulted with the River Life Program ( are invited to imagine the futures of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities and to create a work that responds to that imagined future.

How will people gain access to the water? What wildlife will inhabit this corridor in the city? How will the region’s long history be evident? These are just examples of the questions you might ask yourself about this place. To learn more about the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities, and get links to sources of information about trends and patterns affecting the river, go to River Futures.

Share your vision through a proposed research project, work of art, media, or other means of expression.

See “Competition Details” below to learn how to enter. Opportunities include, but are not limited to:

  • Visual arts
  • Media development
  • Performance such as dance, theatrics, or reading of original work
  • Music
  • Research (an entry in this category will be a research proposal with clearly defined goals, steps, expected outcomes, and a listed, committed, faculty advisor)



  • November 2013 Proposals Due, November 25.
  • December 2013 Selected projects are green-lighted for development; list is announced December 9
  • March 2014 Selected projects are submitted for display/scheduling by March 25
  • April 2014 Selected projects are posted, presented, displayed in gallery space in Northrop.

For More Information

  • Visit Frequently Asked Questions for more details on the competition including the scale of works, the geographic range, the number of proposals you can submit, and whether team-work is appropriate.
  • Visit Resources for information about the river.

Competition Details

The competition asks for your proposal for a project; successful projects will be developed by the proposer in consultation with U of M staff and community partners as appropriate.

Successful proposals will be developed during spring 2014 and then exhibited, performed, displayed during the April 2014 opening of Northrop Auditorium on the East Bank campus. Additional curation/display opportunities will be developed as the projects are defined.

Proposals must consist of the following components:

(See FAQ if you have any questions)

  • A statement telling us about yourself and your vision for the River’s Future.
  • A statement describing what you intend to do, make, or display. For a research proposal, the results of which will be presented in either an oral or poster session as appropriate, the proposal must include the name and contact information of a professor who has agreed to supervise the project.
    • For visual arts, work should include no more than three panels and take up no more than 25 square feet (5’ by 5’ total space).
    • Video should be under 10 minutes in length;
    • Performances and recitals should be under 20 minutes in length.
  • A statement discussing how your proposed project communicates your vision of the River’s Future.

Projects will be judged by a panel of University and community experts and evaluations based on the following criteria:

  • Creativity: How imaginative is the project in its response to conditions that may be affecting the river’s future?
  • Clarity: How well does the project convey the power and urgency of the creator’s vision?
  • Feasibility: Does the project appear to be doable within the expected constraints of time and the space/time available for display and presentation?
Contact Us!
Send us a note at to make suggestions for other places we should look, media to track, and stories to tell!
River Life in Video
Come Along for a Water Walk with Kare11 and River Life, and see Gifts at Work: The Mississippi River by the University of Minnesota Foundation
Open Rivers: Rethinking the Mississippi
A joint project of River Life, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the University of Minnesota Libraries, Open Rivers is an interdisciplinary online journal that recognizes the Mississippi River as a space for timely and critical conversations about people, community, water, and place.