Central Corridor Public Art Plan: The Spine of Creativity

By: Christine Podas-Larson, Public Art Saint Paul and Todd Bressi, Artful Places
March 28, 2012

For the past two years, Public Art Saint Paul has been developing a Central Corridor Public Art Plan that will expand the definition of “placemaking” beyond specific sites to encompass the living systems of cities. This expansion will include the visible urban infrastructure (transportation, energy, water) as well as invisible infrastructure (flows of information, food, waste, and capital). The Public Art Plan breathes beyond the linear limits of the Central Corridor LRT line and stations far into the surrounding neighborhoods to consider connections, the shape and use of infrastructure, and open space. 

The Plan will give artists the ability to work with communities and frame questions about the future of the corridor and about how it can be vital and healthy as it evolves. This comes at a time when the currents and ideas that are shaping the field of public art and policy have never been more turbulent, or more vibrant. This has also led to a healthy diversification of the paradigms that underlie art in the public realm, and the approaches to commissioning and presenting work. The practice of public art along the Central Corridor will benefit from absorbing energy and initiative from these various influences. 

The outcome will be a Public Art Plan that is expansive in its long term vision for art in multiple media, in its caring for the voices of the community, and in its sustainability within a dynamic urban environment. Ultimately, our aim is for The Central Corridor Public Art Plan to be adopted by both cities and to provide a direction and a foundation for action by artists, cultural and community organizations, as well as by developers and businesses throughout the Corridor.

How to Get Involved

The Central Corridor Public Art Plan is engaging artists, residents, property owners, businesses, public agencies, schools, and organizations in an aspiration-based conversation — one on one, neighborhood by neighborhood — around the Fantastic Future of the Corridor. Over the next three months, the planning team will engage the community in a series of creative workshops that will chart a course for artist-community collaborations and build maps of resources, organizations, networks and opportunities. The workshops will be widely promoted and posted on both Public Art Saint Paul’s and the Central Corridor Public Art Plan Web sites.

We are exploring where, why and how people gather. As suggested by members of our partner organizations, we looked to community gardeners for guidance and inspiration.  This has resulted in a series of community conversations with Works Progress that have been documented and shaped into video artworks (see an example from the Hamline Midway neighborhood). The project will include similar research and video-making around questions of where people find a creative spark in their neighborhoods, and how that creativity could shape the public places of the Corridor in the future.

Three of our participating artists, Seitu Jones, TouSaiko Lee and Cliff Garten will lead a demonstration project around the issue of urban food systems, which will explore not only art forms and projects that can explore questions of urban food systems, but also serve as a test for how a long-term art initiative can be organized.

The Planning Team and Partners

The Public Art Plan will be the result of the combined efforts of many partnering organizations and individuals. The Planning Team, selected through a nationwide search, brings broad artistic thinking and strategic understanding of the Corridor: its physical, social, economic and environmental context; planning and policy issues; and funding resources. Its members are: public artist Cliff Garten, urban planner/designer Todd Bressi, public artist Blaine Merker, and art consultant Meredith McKinley.

Throughout this process, the Planning Team has been working with a core group of Twin Cities artists to explore public art practice here and develop ideas for demonstration projects that will apply those practices to the living systems of the cities: Marcus Young is Saint Paul’s City Artist in Residence whose public works include Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk and Wishes for the Sky; Seitu Jones Minneapolis Artist-in-Residence and Central Corridor LRT station artist; Christine Baeumler Watershed District Artist‐in‐Residence; Wing Young Huie, photographer who created The University Avenue Project, Tou SaiKo Lee a spoken word artist, and Shanai Matteson of Works Progress.

The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative has generously supported the Public Art Plan and our community partners include the City of Saint Paul, the City of Minneapolis Art in Public Places Program, the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation’s Design Center, the Capitol Region and Ramsey Washington Regional Watershed Districts, The University District Alliance and District Councils Collaborative.

For more information, please visit: http://www.publicartstpaul.org/  

Photo credits (from top):
1. Linda Chryssimallis, from Wing Young Huie's The University Avenue Project and its Projection site in vacant car lot at University and Albert.
From Wing Young Huie's University Avenue Project.  This image remains as mural on the wall of the Rondo Library.
3. Fantastic Futures Bike Tour: Skyline Tower & Three Ring Gardens Residents and design students envision a meeting place for Skyline Tower.