Overview:

The City of Saint Paul has operated a City Artist residency program since 2005, which places artists in residencies with different departments in city government in order to integrate art into diverse civic disciplines.

Context:

Public Art Saint Paul defines City Art as “made from and within the life-sustaining systems of the city.” Beyond object making, yet inclusive of it, this work aspires to make our personal and collective sustaining of life, our daily living within natural and human-made systems, a great masterpiece of our times.?

The goal of the City Artist residency program is to integrate artists and creativity into the daily workings of the city. The project was invited with the vision of creating an “upstream” role for artists in the city. The project is a partnership between the nonprofit organization Public Art Saint Paul and the City of Saint Paul. Artists are provided with the freedom to lead artistic and curatorial projects and have dedicated workspace at the Department of Public Works. City artists participate in projects with parks, planning, public works, and libraries and are engaged early in the conception state of planning processes and projects including planning studies, capital projects design, street and sidewalk maintenance, and the programming of public spaces.

Primary Partners:

City of Saint Paul; Public Art Saint Paul (PASP), a nonprofit organization; selected artist in residence serve a two-year term

Funding:

Six private foundations including the McKnight Foundation, the Saint Paul Foundation, the R. Bigelow Foundation, the Mardag Foundation, the Knight Foundation, and the John and Ruth Huss Fund, and funds generated through the City of Saint Paul Public Art Ordinance.

Process:

PASP has fully funded two City Artist positions for the City of Saint Paul since the program’s inception. PASP hires artists through a Call to Artists; selected artists work an adjusted, 30 hours/week full-time schedule. City Artists work across departments in the City to explore art-making that generates innovations in public art practice. PASP seeks candidates with experience in the traditions of 2D or 3D object-making, digital media/design, performance, and/or social practice art and with skills in communication, organization, time management, community engagement, collaboration, project management, and an interest in systems, civic government, and equity. As of June 2016, the City has hired three staff for placement through the program.

The City Artist is appointed to serve on various municipal task forces that represent public art during the planning stages of city projects and is also called upon to serve as an advisor on municipal infrastructure and open space projects. The artist may also develop their own city art projects pending the availability of funds. The artist is also expected to work towards and create opportunities for other artists to work with the city in their role as an employee of PASP working within city government.

Successes:

This established residency program has generated creative projects that advance planning, infrastructure design, and community health goals. Examples:

  • Pop-Up Meeting: Pop-Up Meeting is an artistically retrofitted city truck that seeks to serve as a front porch engaging communities in Saint Paul’s urban planning process. In exchange for letters and information provided by community members, participants providing their ideas receive locally-made St Pops ice pops from the truck. The project is a playful mechanism for community engagement, bringing the city to the people and creatively inviting residents into community conversations.
  • Saint Paul Streets: Artist Marcus Young serves as curator of the Saint Paul Streets project, which is embedded within the Department of Public Works. The project inserts public art into the street infrastructure through a quiet and systemic transformation. The city is undertaking a plan to install raingardens and the project is weaving public art into this narrow system of raingardens, creating a more artful public realm.
  • Urban Flower Field: Urban Flower Field is a short-term project that is testing how wildflowers absorb heavy metals from urban soils. The project takes place on an abandoned lot in a dense neighborhood. A temporary installation of a spiraling set of circular flower plots holds the experiment to measure plant bioremediation, and the results from this soil remediation project will be submitted for publication in a scientific journal. The project is implemented in collaboration with Adam Kay, an environmental scientist. A mural serves as a backdrop to the flower plots, and the area also provide a patio space for public gathering.

Learn More:

Saint Paul City Art Program. Public Art Saint Paul. (2016) http://publicartstpaul.org/cityartist/

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