Central Corridor Public Art Plan Nears Completion as Demonstration Project is Launched

By: Christine Podas-Larson, Public Art Saint Paul
February 20, 2013

In the month ahead, the Central Corridor Public Art Plan will come forward after a two-year process of development.  Artists, the Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, public agencies, non-profit organizations, and the community will soon have an opportunity to review/adopt/embrace/integrate this multi-jurisdictional vision for far reaching creativity.  Public and private funding resources will have an opportunity to support the pilot phase of its implementation.   This dynamic “living plan” is intended to be tested over the next five years and to evolve over time as artists and communities build the urban future.
From the beginning, Public Art Saint Paul and our Partners sought a plan that would excite artists and spark community action in the Corridor.  With the City of Saint Paul, Minneapolis Art in Public Places, Saint Paul Design Center, University District Alliance, and Watershed Districts that serve the Corridor, we embarked on a bold vision that would move beyond dots on a map of opportunities. We sought a plan that would be artful and inclusive; a plan that would consider how art can unify the Corridor and reflect the way in which public artists are working to effect social, civic and environmental change.
In 2011, we engaged a national planning consultant team: artist Cliff Garten, Urban Planner Todd Bressi, artists The Rebar Group, and Via Partnership.  This has been a highly collaborative process, drawing upon the knowledge and resources of Partners and the community to understand the conditions and aspirations of the Central Corridor.  A Core team of local artists worked with our consultants to illuminate models of public art practice and cross-disciplinary collaboration, and to provide insights and writings.  Over two years, the consultants met with members of the community, artists and cultural leaders, planning and development specialists, funding partners, and public officials.  They pored through existing plans and development frameworks for both cities as well as the programs of community and cultural organizations.  The plan was posted online and the community was invited to comment throughout the process.  The team held community workshops and roundtable dialogues and team member Rebar invited the community and artists to join a two-day bike ride, visiting sites of the Corridor’s “Fantastic Future”.  A series of Community Gardening videos in neighborhoods along the Corridor revealed the poetical aspiration of those who understand deeply that this is their civic home. 
Says consultant Todd Bressi, “The plan outlines a comprehensive strategy for employing public art to shape a better urban future by tapping into the collective energies and talents of artists and people from broad segments of the community. The plan has the potential for deep and long-lasting impact along the Corridor and for establishing a new paradigm for how public art and community revitalization can work hand in hand.”
From their first visit early in 2011, the consultants observed an approach to public art practice in the Twin Cities that is powerful and unique.  Artists such as Wing Young Huie, Seitu Jones, Christine Baeumler, Marcus Young and others are concerned with broad social and environmental themes and the living systems of the city.  
Artistic practice is a foundation of the Central Corridor Public Art Plan.  Further, the plan is founded upon broad languages of the urban future such as water, food, waste, infrastructure, creative sparks, and gathering places.  Finally, the plan is “living”, with projects building within and across those languages over time.
Says Bressi, “Our planning approach was designed not so much to produce recommendations for specific art projects and art locations, but to establish a meaningful context and framework for the work that is yet to come.”
A new demonstration of the plan’s vision of artistic practice in the Central Corridor is already underway.  With a recently announced Joyce Award, Public Art Saint Paul has commissioned artist Seitu Jones to lead a work he has longed to realize – Spoken Remedy: The Community Meal.  In fall 2014, Jones and his artistic collaborators will set a table ½ mile long in the middle of Victoria Street, gathering 2,000 community members for a civic dinner table conversation about food, food access and food justice.  
Watch for news of The Central Corridor Public Art Plan and The Community Meal at www.publicartstpaul.org.
Top: Artist Christine Baeumler discussing storm water management as part of  the Fantastic Futures Bike Ride.  Photo Credit: Rebar
Bottom: Sietu Jones in his Frogtown Studio at a planning meeting.  Photo credit: Public Art Saint Paul