Visual artist Amanda Lovelee is a based in Minneapolis, MN and has just finished her tenure as the City Artist for Public Art Saint Paul. She acts as translator between the city’s ideas and its residents with the goal of building the city everyone wants to live in. As City Artist Amanda has focused on engagement through both her projects Pop Up Meeting, a city popsicle truck and Urban Flower Field, a vacant lot turned gathering space/live science project. She is interested in how people connect and the spaces in which they do so within contemporary society. Her recent projects have explored a myriad of topics: the lives of beekeepers and ice fishermen, strangers’ love stories and the sociology of square dancing. Her work has been funded by the MN State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Forecast Public Art and Art Place America.
As she was leaving her role, she thought it would be nice to write a love letter to the city she has worked with for the last 5 and ½ years.
I want to write you a love letter. I know you don’t get many because I used to sit next to Beth who answered all the complaints in Public Works. Our 5 and ½ years together might be over but I truly believe we have changed each other and I need to thank you for all you have taught me.
When I accepted the job as City Artist in the City of St Paul I was completely unsure what my job would be. During my first few months as I trudged along sitting in a cube trying to convince my PC computer to work or the city to give me a mac - I really questioned why I we were together. Was this a bad experiment? Did I have anything to bring to this relationship? Were artists and cities just too different?
That was when I realized that you are not just a city. You are people, amazing people! I had the opportunity to work with some magical partners under your roof who taught me the definition of civil servant. I began to see how my mission as an artist to bring people together aligned with your vision to make the most livable city for all. Our powers combined in the form of projects I never would have thought up before, and in ways no one will ever see. You supported me turning a gravel lot into a science experiment and gathering space filled with flowers, retrofitting a city vehicle into a popsicle truck that brought all voices in urban planning, filling the library stacks with community kits, and building sky rise sculptures for urban pollinators. Each of these projects sounds a bit undoable and they would have been if you had not believed in me.
Thank you for opening the doors of city hall to an artist, to someone who thinks different than what you were used to. Thank you for always saying yes or at least maybe and then yes in a culture known for no’s. Thank you for letting me dream on the back of all the hard work others had done before me. Thank you for letting bring play to work and always letting me ask why.
We are in complicated times. We are not going to find solutions in one field. We need cross sector collaboration. This is a rally call for creativity to find its way into the most unlikely of spaces and for those spaces to open their arms as widely as the City of St Paul did for me. Artists are leaders when you give them the space and resources to do so.
If you are a city reading this letter please hire more artists.
If you are an artist reading this letter please work with your local government.
I will no longer be entering your doors every day, but know that I truly love you city and by city I mean- Lucy, Cassi, Catherine, Margaret, Nora, Laura, Faye, Hun-Win, Asha, Josh, Jamie, Anne, Alice, Ellen, Mary, Bianca, Katie, Anton, Joe, Chris, Anne, Jonathan, Kathy, Jane, Kit, Aaron, Jeanette, Phoebe, Therese, Chase, Ron, Mike, and Kristen. This list could go on forever.
Sincerely your forever artist in residence,