Utopian Podium is a sculptural object by artist Jim Duignan and a conceptual platform for sharing ideas about what we want our society to become. This series sparked imagination by inviting artists and the public to dream together in playful, participatory outdoor events. Learn more about the events that helped us all to realize the potential of our time and place:
Public Art Saint Paul staff visited Jim Duignan in Chicago last fall. We experienced one of his podium-sculptures at an alternative arts space/gallery on our tour. Smitten with its suggestive concept and rough-hewn minimalist style, we started talking with Jim about commissioning a podium for Saint Paul. He has constructed many podiums as both art objects and platforms for giving authority and voice to those who don’t often get to stand and speak publicly.
Executive Director Colleen Sheehy proposed that our sculpture be made from wood scavenged in our city, and titled ours Utopian Podium. Over the course of the week, with assists from many PASP friends and organizations, Jim found pieces from school gymnasium bleachers, old chairs, Midway Stadium, the Lowry Building, and the Palace Theatre, along with scrap wood from Western Sculpture Park, a medicinal wood sample from Hmongtown Marketplace, and a remnant of an art project from Juxtaposition Arts’s youth workshops. Seitu Jones also contributed a piece from a recent installation project and his studio where Jim built the Utopian Podium in just four days. The final work, an assemblage sculpture pieced together in a mosaic-like fashion, carries the histories and energies of all these Saint Paul places, with a nod to Minneapolis as well. (Thanks, JXTA!)
Knowing that utopia has a deep and complex history in human cultures, we think the concept can inspire a wide range of people to express their ideas about how we make a better city and a better world.
Series Kickoff: Open Podium with Theater of Public Policy
Utopian Podium summer series debuts on June 9th at noon in Ecolab Plaza with a few words about the series from our Executive Director Colleen Sheehy and City Artist Amanda Lovelee.
The Utopian Podium will then be open to the public and a few special guest to share their dreams and wishes for society. Theater of Public Policy will recap what we shared at the podium with a short improvisational performance.
We hope you can join us!
Choreographers Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder’s collaboration – HIJACK – will debut DECOLABIA, a new dance inspired by themes of utopia in EcoLab Plaza on July 14th at noon. HIJACK has created work together for over two decades with pieces made for as many as fifty dancers and for spaces as large as a football field. We’re thrilled to have commissioned them to make this piece and can’t wait to see it animate the Utopian Podium! Read more about HIJACK and their creative process in making DECOLABIA here.
Tou Saiko Lee & Spoken Word Artists
Tou Saiko Lee is a hip hop/spoken word artist and community organizer living in Saint Paul. In addition to his own performance, Tou Saiko will curate a group of artists to share their stories and hopes on August 11th.
The Utopian Podium is made possible with support from:
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Saint Paul Cultural STAR
The Saint Paul Foundation
F. R. Bigelow Foundation