One year ago, the former Midway Chevrolet car dealership at 1333 University Avenue was yet another vacant lot along the Central Corridor—a remnant from a previous era when car dealerships dominated the Midway area of Saint Paul. Today, the lot stands as a colorful, artistic sign of things to come.
Over the past year, artist/organizer Oskar Ly
has been working on a large-scale public art project at the site dubbed “ARTIFY—Bringing the Arts to Hamline Station.”
Her project aims to create a renewed sense of place around the site ahead of a 108-unit affordable housing development, which Project for Pride in Living plans to break ground on this spring.
Ly brought community members and more than two-dozen local artists together to create 20 public art installments and 11 performances at the lot—all based on the theme “Home is…” She says the goal is to signify the transformation of an abandoned business to a place people would soon call home.
ARTIFY capped-off its yearlong project with a final celebration, “Midway is Home,” last Saturday. Artists reflected on their work, while spectators toured the grounds to view the various installments. Poetry for Thought, a local effort to inspire community dialogue through spoken word performances, organized area poets to present original works and spark discussion of what “home” means.
Janell Repp, a Saint Paul native, has lived all over the world, most recently in India. For her, home is often changing, she says. She once purchased a car at the Midway Chevrolet dealership. “I sat in this office and signed the papers,” she said. “It’s funny how time changes…you make your home where you are… and you keep moving through time.”
The most visible installation to passerby is a large mural painted at the Saint Paul Open Streets event last summer. It depicts a row of colorful houses over the façade of the old dealership with the words “Home is Hamline Midway” printed across the top. Another piece involves 108 house-shaped wood cutouts decorated by area youth with their own ideas of what “home” is.
Mischa Keagan and Witt Siasoco held several workshops at the Hamline Midway and Rondo libraries where people traced places they considered home on large green canvases that are now on display at the site. “All along people talked about their family, their kids, their homes, and their dogs…it was a really nice way to get to know people in the community,” Keagan said.
Most of the art installments will remain on display till demolition begins this spring. Ly says she has at least one more project planned. She hopes to hang large photos on the fence surrounding the construction site this summer. “I want to create a façade that helps create an environment that’s more community-oriented than if it was just a construction site,” she said.
The future PPL development will feature a public plaza to display art, thanks in part to the ARTIFY project, according to Ly.
ARTIFY is supported by Irrigate Arts
, an artist-led creative placemaking initiative that seeks to foster a new sense of place through public art along the Central Corridor. Irrigate is made possible through a partnership between the City of Saint Paul, Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation,
and Springboard for the Arts
Sources: Oskar Ly, Janell Repp, Mischa Keagan
Writer: Kyle Mianulli