Public Art Saint Paul (PASP) engages artists in shaping a public realm that fosters imagination, explores and illuminates civic values and the community’s evolving history, and strengthens public places as vessels of civic life. Over 25 years, PASP has partnered with the City of Saint Paul to promote its identity as a creative city at the head of navigation on a great world river.
ArtPlace spoke with Marcus Young, Saint Paul City Artist in Residence from Public Art Saint Paul, about the excitement generated by ArtPlace’s recent Creative Placemaking Summit.
ARTPLACE: What ideas did you gain that you plan to apply to your initiative?
YOUNG: I was impressed with the expansive conversations at the Summit generated among the various disciplines and approaches. I liked what someone said about the hidden “energy of unlikely coalitions.” I also liked the refrain of needing to take risks and avoiding zero-error culture (not refraining so to speak). As artists integrated into city-making, our MO is to question, to disrupt the normal yet work in coalition, in order to open to new dreams. I have been the one-person City Artist in Residence for six years. This year, with ArtPlace support, we have a team. Our city’s planning department has 68 on staff. What about a future that includes 68 artists in residence staff. Then, we can really play in coalition and take some risks in the name of placemaking!
ARTPLACE: What did you share about your initiative that was surprising to other participants?
YOUNG: We approach time in a unique way because our artists are integrated into city cycles, systems, and visions. We know the value of thinking about and working over time the way the city does—often taking a very long view. Good work takes time…and patience. And we’re betting that taking time allows us to find the unexpected and deeply meaningful.
Our program addresses the important question: what can happen when artists are at the big table of city-making, alongside the other professionals who are already there—the engineer, the planner, the architect, the maintenance staff, etc. How can the fundamental practice of envisioning, building, and maintaining a city be improved if artists are allowed to contribute significantly, far upstream, to that master work? It will be interesting to see how ArtPlace, other funders, and the broader community respond to work that aspires to live in time in this way.
ARTPLACE: Where does this movement go next?
YOUNG: Bringing all the grantees together in the context of a budding national movement was helpful. I don’t know where the movement goes next, but I hope we can stay in dialogue with others to learn from them and share what we find. I think our program has something unique to offer the movement, and the movement has energy to lend us. Perhaps the energy of the movement was best expressed by a speaker at the Summit who proclaimed, “This is your public space, your city…your theater.” I would add: “It’s your master work of public art.”