5 QUESTIONS WITH OUR NEW CITY ARTIST, AARON DYSART
We are thrilled to announce Aaron Dysart as our new City Artist! He brings 14 years of experience in visual art focused on environmental preservation, civic engagement, and exposing and simplifying hidden infrastructure and systems. His years-long connection with Public Art Saint Paul dates back to 2008 when he was a Sustainable Art-Making Fellow, which led him to a fellowship in the organization’s groundbreaking City Art Collaboratory program. Most recently, Dysart was one of four artists involved with District Energy St. Paul on the Plume Project, an idea that emerged from field trips and conversations in the Collaboratory and was funded by a Knight Foundation Arts Challenge grant. You’ll get to know Aaron more in the coming months as he gets integrated with the organization, but here’s a quick look into Aaron and his artwork.
Why did you want to be a City Artist?
A lot of my past work was about investigation, diving deep into the intersection of the built and non-built environment. The objects and interventions were meant to open up and highlight the subtle complexities of this relationship in a time where it is too often simplified. Now it is time to push to the next step of finding solutions, and seeing how this relationship can flourish. City Artists have the resources of all of St. Paul at their fingertips. With experts in so many diverse fields, it is seems like the best place to help find the next step forward.
How has the world around you influenced your art?
Artists are, of course, constant observers – and what one observes will always affect their output in subtle and unsubtle ways. Because of this, I try to push myself to have a diverse range of experiences. While I usually do not see direct influence in my work (I saw this, so I will try to do that) I am very interested in how all of life’s experiences filter subconsciously into the finished product as this seems to create work that is less contrived and more honest.
Why do you love St. Paul?
I lived in Lowertown for about nine years. I loved that I could walk one direction into a city center and stare at amazing architectural details from the last century. If I walked in the opposite direction, I could walk to a bird sanctuary with deep multi-cultural heritage stretching back many centuries. Yet another direction took me to the banks of the Mississippi River with its deep geological time. All this was just a short walk from my home. The city of St. Paul has such a diversity of people and place where there always promises to be new experiences of layered time and complex personal histories.
Which work of yours are you most proud of?
Not sure I can pick one, so how about my last major one? I worked with the Mississippi Watershed Management District to produce Watershed, a sculpture made out of frozen river water that showed the river bottom as a mountain range that was funded through an Artist Initiative Grant from the State Artists Board. The work used scientific data to dictate the aesthetic of the work to create a temporal experience in a space that was not dedicated to an art experience so it reached a much wider audience. I love it when art breathes in the everyday of the world rather than being secluded in the occasional pilgrimage.
What are you most looking forward to accomplishing while at Public Art Saint Paul?
I am just looking to get started. Since this is such a big, amazing opportunity that will just constantly surprise me, I am entering into the position with the understanding that it will change me – and my work – in ways I can’t even imagine right now. Considering all the great projects and people that have come out of the City Artist program over the years, I am more than fine with that. This position is truly a dream come true.