Springboard for the Arts, the City of Saint Paul and Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) developed Irrigate as an artist-led creative placemaking initiative. This unique cross-sector partnership came from the City’s desire to better leverage the creative skills of their residents and to work on disruption mitigation during major infrastructure development (the building of a Light Rail Transit line) in a new way. We knew that the traditional ways of addressing this kind of community challenge (community meetings, town halls, marketing consultants) have not been very successful. How could we think differently about this challenge, and what assets already existed in the community? Our goal in developing Irrigate was to use the period of disruption to build a parallel infrastructure of relationships and social capital that would outlast the construction chaos. The project was developed using Springboard’s history and expertise in artist training and community problem solving, LISC’s expertise in bricks and mortar community development, and the City of Saint Paul’s expertise in policy and planning.
Irrigate is both an invitation and a charge to the creative community to engage with their neighborhoods and provides a common cause that has proved incredibly motivating to artists. We conducted Irrigate over a 3-year period, engaging over 600 artists in the training and supporting over 180 collaborative placemaking projects between artists and neighborhood organizations and businesses. These projects generated over 50 million positive media impressions of an area that otherwise would have had a predominantly negative public narrative. Businesses and other groups that participated say they saw increased visibility, interest and energy because of the projects and 90% say they are “more likely” to work with an artist again. The Irrigate model has already been piloted and adapted at different funding levels to support artists to address historic preservation, new development and revitalization in both urben and rural communities.
A free toolkit for Irrigate is available at http://www.springboardexchange.org/toolkits/default.aspx
A documentary about Irrigate is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQmUlCGjKrk
See below for recent updates, press, and events from this project