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Public Art Saint Paul expands its artists-in-residence program

Public Art Saint Paul, a nonprofit organization that started in 2005, now has several artists-in-residence based in the city’s public works department.

Executive director Christine Podas-Larson says the artists will “impact the way the city thinks, plans and builds” in the long term.

The program aims to “shape a public realm that fosters imagination and strengthens public places as vessels of civic life,” a prepared statement from the organization reads.  

Initially, the program had in mind a fellowship-type of arrangement, but it became clear early on that a “deeper level of immersion was required to be effective,” she says. “There’s so much to learn about the language of the city and how it works.”

Furthermore, city projects often develop over a long period, she says.  

In 2006, conceptual/behavioral artist Marcus Young joined the program as its artistic director.

After spending a year in the public works department, Young developed the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalks, which imbeds poetry in the concrete of new sidewalks in conjunction with the sidewalk replacement that goes on yearly.

Young has also worked in other areas of the city, dealing with planning, infrastructure development, residential street construction, and more, according to program information.  

Building on his ongoing efforts, Public Art Saint Paul more recently sought to flesh out the program with more artistic viewpoints and expertise, Podas-Larson says.  

Sarah West, a multidisciplinary artist who’s led public art installations and architecture projects, will work with city streetscapes, bridges, open spaces and other elements. By contrast, Amanda Lovelee, a visual artist who specializes in photography and video, will focus on the urban forest.

“It’s a pretty full complement,” Podas-Larson says. “It’s synergistic yet distinct.”

Typically, one percent of the construction budget for city infrastructure goes to public art, which is created at a certain point in a project’s timeline. Through this program, the artists help bring their sensibility to projects every step of the way.

“It’s unique nationwide. No one else is doing it,” Podas-Larson says. “Other cities are calling us about this model.”

Source: Christine Podas-Larson, Public Art St. Paul
Writer: Anna Pratt

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