City Artist in Residence

Public Art Saint Paul

Funding Received: 2012
St. Paul, MN
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 23, 2012

Public Art Saint Paul (PASP) has innovated civic life in Saint Paul, Minnesota, for 25 years. PASP unites artists with citizens to shape a public realm that fosters imagination, explores civic values and the community’s evolving history, and strengthens Saint Paul’s public spaces as vessels of public life. Among this nonprofit’s numerous creative collaborations, PASP partners with the City of Saint Paul to promote its identity as a creative city.

Now ArtPlace support is expanding these relationships. After establishing the City Artist in Residence (CAIR) Program in 2005 with a single artist based in Saint Paul’s Public Works Department, PASP is now building a cohort of artists (CAIRs) immersed within the broader constellation of public agencies. The intent is to transform how the city is organized and experienced creatively by expanding art and place making into the living systems and infrastructure of the city.

ArtPlace spoke with Christine Podas-Larson, President of Public Art Saint Paul, about its CAIR cohort that is innovating at the foundation of creative place making in Saint Paul and its metro area.

ARTPLACE: Describe how PASP’s City Artist in Residence Program works.

PODAS-LARSON: For nearly seven years we have supported the art and place making of a CAIR in Public Works. We know of no one else in the country creating City Art made within and from a city’s systems. By now involving multiple artists throughout Saint Paul’s urban planning, city systems management, capital project development , and maintenance processes, the CAIR program’s impact significantly spreads across the City’s dozen ZIP codes. Led by conceptual-behavioral artist Marcus Young, CAIRs will be resident within Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Planning and Economic Development. A fourth member of this cohort is Christine Baeumler, engaged by PASP since 2009 as Artist in Residence for the Watershed Districts that serve Saint Paul. After a significant period embedded within City workplaces, CAIRs propose and create city-scaled demonstration projects.

ARTPLACE: How will the City Artist in Residence cohort increase vibrancy in Saint Paul?

PODAS-LARSON: Currently, through the CAIR program’s synergistic relationship to the City’s Public Art Ordinance, artists are engaged in developing major city planning studies including Saint Paul’s Greater Lowertown Plan and the Central Corridor Stormwater Management Plans. City system-scaled art addresses complex issues in urban agriculture, water management, the urban forest, transportation, and multi-cultural/-generational social interaction, etc.

Saint Paul’s works of City Art aspire to make our personal and collective daily life the great masterpiece of our times. With ArtPlace support, the CAIR cohort will create art that demonstrates these core values:

(1) Quality – the best art should belong to the public;

(2) Immersion – fosters strategic understanding of city systems as the basis for artistic action;

(3) Vibrancy and Innovation – artists improve systems and work across disciplines to create new ways of thinking;

(4) Teamwork – multiple artists work in different agencies, yet as a cohort, magnifying capacity through shared and diverse experiences; and

(5) City Studio – artists innovate within the whole geography of the city.

ARTPLACE: What are some examples of how these values are enacted in Saint Paul?

PODAS-LARSON: Our City Art aspires to be a civic collaboration of creating the beautiful city – project by project, work by work, ultimately as a whole beloved experience that fosters human interaction and creates both personal and economic value. In the City Studio, CAIRs view the city metaphorically – they conceive of the city as a book, the city calendar as a cycle of ceremony, public place as a stage. They translate concern with landscape and food systems into social practice that transforms human behavior.

Vibrancy is both increased quality and higher quality of activity. It is built one homeowner at a time who walks out the front door into a city of poetry and brings that vision into her heart and mind. Vibrancy is built one day at a time; in recent years on Earth Day CAIR Marcus Young established an annual event of civic wishing that draws people to the Mississippi River’s edge – more days of city ritual are waiting to be created by artists and celebrated in ongoing acts of individual creativity. That is vibrancy on a real city scale and at a level of everyday impact. Affection for this city, the place of our personal histories and civic lives, cannot be underestimated in its efficacy to create vibrancy. We see the CAIR program having genuine and lasting impact that can be viewed by cities nationwide as a new model for city life.

PHOTO: Marcus Young, Saint Paul’s City Artist in Residence, views one of more than 500 sidewalk poetry installations from his ongoing project, Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk.