‘The Neighborhood’s Communication Department’ — Confluence Studio’s Print Shop

Minneapolis, MN — “We’re trying to be the neighborhood’s communication department” said Duaba, Confluence Studio’s co-founder, while standing inside a shipping container-turned print shop in South Minneapolis. “We worked with neighbors,” said Confluence’s other co-founder Sam, “to collaboratively construct this idea of what a newsroom for neighbors could be.”

The container was initially gifted to Confluence Studio a few years ago. Duaba and Sam, who already had a print shop, worked with the community to build the Autonomous Mobile Media Unit, or the AMMU, inside the container. The duo shared the history of their work with Unicorn Riot and gave us a walkthrough of the AMMU, see the video below.

The AMMU purposely sits just a few hundred feet down the alleyway from the ruins of the Minneapolis Police’s Third Precinct building off East Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue. The mobile ‘media unit’ is in the courtyard of Moon Palace Books in a collaboration with the bookstore “on towards something called the Minnehaha Learning Park,” said Sam.

“Duaba and I have been working together since like late 2015, and we’d really been talking about the intersection of material infrastructure and social infrastructure and how they’re intrinsically bonded. So we founded Confluence.”

Sam, Co-founder of Confluence: An East Lake Studio for Community Design

Fully named Confluence: An East lake Studio for Community Design, the studio is centered on empowering “the needs and interests of the radically diverse people” in South Minneapolis’ 9th Ward. Confluence was founded in the spring of 2020 and has offered the community a newsstand on Chicago Ave. and Lake St. in the lot of the former Roberts Shoe Store building, an abolitionist magazine called TERMINAL and a print shop, among other projects.

The print shop is equipped to make copies, print flyers, posters, and even books. It has a Richo printer, plotter printer, page collator, and an industrial paper cutter. Not only can a community member visit the AMMU and get some printing done, but they can also gain the knowledge on how to use the equipment.

“What we really like to do is teach people the technology and then in time get more of the technology and spread it around. This idea of people coming in and we tell ’em how to use this machine. And then we find ways to move resources around the neighborhood.”

Sam, Co-founder of Confluence: An East Lake Studio for Community Design

Adding to the skillsharing element of the AMMU, Duaba said they plan for the their print shops to be “part of a commons that everyone in the neighborhood can, access or learn how to use, make their own materials to distribute.”

“The tools that you need to enable a neighborhood to make decisions are tools for communication. The city uses those things to great effect to make its own decisions in its own interests. And they have a whole department for it. So we’re trying to be the neighborhoods communication department.”

Duaba, Co-founder of Confluence: An East Lake Studio for Community Design

This report only touches the surface of Confluence Studio, for more visit their website and follow their Instagram. Confluence Studio holds community assemblies on the second Saturday of each month at Walker Community Church at 3 p.m. The next one being held on July 8. Stay tuned for further Unicorn Riot reporting on these assemblies and Confluence’s autonomous RFP ‘The Future in Ruins: Overwriting the Third Precinct’.


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