This summer, stretch your brain, exercise your body, and go behind the scenes at local businesses with Connect the Grey! Our Explorations events are back for a second season, with a new partnership to expand the series' reach and goals.
Explorations launched in 2015 in Minneapolis, with outings that included a tour of a local brewery, a visit to an art gallery, and a group bike ride. The series is built on the notion that trying a variety of experiences fuels creativity and learning in a fun, playful way.
Now, thanks to a collaboration with Health Solutions, we're adding to our programming to enhance the physical benefits of being active and trying new activities. We're also growing beyond the Twin Cities to host events in southern Minnesota: Our lineup includes kayaking on the Minnesota River; touring Oswald Brewing in the town of Blue Earth; and exploring the Mankato Farmers Market.
Health Solutions has over 20 years of experience encouraging people to be active, as they work with their clients to improve workplace and community wellness. The company advises on safety procedures, ergonomics, and building healthy nutrition and exercise habits.
Explorations are a perfect way for people to try healthy activities without having to fear judgment or make a major commitment, says Health Solutions' founder, Deb Lundberg. They're a fun, safe, and more welcoming alternative to traditional exercise options.
For example, Deb explains, gyms are often intimidating to people venturing into fitness for the first time, who may be out of shape and unsure of where to start. By contrast, an activity like the kayaking tour allows people to be active and learn a new skill over the course of a pleasant evening on the river. Participants can see firsthand that exercise doesn't have to be overly athletic or grueling, and that even a small amount of activity in a social setting can be beneficial to your health.
The chance to try something new in a safe environment has been at the core of the Explorations series from the beginning. The idea started in an art gallery — a place that, like gyms, can often feel overwhelming and inaccessible to newcomers.
During her time in New York City, Connect the Grey founder Janie Hanson noticed some interesting interactions when her coworkers in finance came to events hosted at her art gallery on the Lower East Side. By getting out of the office, her colleagues were able to have unexpected conversations and make connections that never would have happened at work. Many of them had never set foot in a gallery before, but getting to see and discuss shows with peers made the art more accessible and deepened their understanding of the creative process. Even more illuminating were the conversations they were able to have with artists who were present at the gallery, giving them a personal connection and lasting appreciation of art.
Janie noticed that inviting people to ask questions and reflect out loud sparked stronger engagement with the artwork on display. For example, she enjoyed asking visitors to name both their favorite and least favorite pieces in a show. Reassuring people that they didn't have to like everything gave them permission to be critical and consider a wider range of responses to the art. These conversations were particularly enlightening in groups, as people at different levels of experience could share ideas and learn from one another.
Janie's observations at the gallery inspired the launch of Explorations, which apply the same concepts — stepping out of a familiar setting, trying new experiences in a safe environment, participating in open-ended discussions, and gaining insight into the creative process — to a variety of activities.
Explorations also spotlight local businesses and offer a look behind the scenes at the challenges and fun of starting a new venture. For example, one of the first Explorations was a tour and tasting at Insight Brewing in Minneapolis. Founder Ilan Klages-Mundt trained as a musician, so not only was he able to demonstrate the brewing process, but he could also speak to how creative skills can apply across industries, and about the combination of art, science, and business that goes into craft brewing.
The early Explorations focused on creativity and how our brains are strengthened by new experiences and conversations. When Janie got to know Deb and learned more about Health Solutions, they realized how closely their goals overlapped: The same activities that support physical health can also promote intellectual health and creativity. Physical activity allows people to recharge and exercise the connections between different brain functions that spark new ideas.
Thanks to our partnership with Health Solutions, future Explorations will benefit mind and body while still being fun and inviting to all. This season, we'll be experimenting with a variety of Explorations activities — just as we tell participants to venture out of their comfort zones, we want to stretch beyond our own. Though the current lineup of Explorations are open to the public, we're also looking at how this format can strengthen connections among teams of employees, as they did for Janie's coworkers in New York.
Ultimately, our goal with Explorations is that each participant learns something they can apply in their own life, whether it's how to be active on an everyday basis or how to be more creative at work. We aim to layer in many different ways for people to engage, so that everyone comes away with something useful, no matter their learning style.
This season of Explorations launches this week with a photo scavenger hunt by bike in Minneapolis and the kayaking tour with Bent River Outfitter in Mankato. You can also join us on a brewery visit in July and a farmers market tour in August!