To celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’ll be sharing 30 facts throughout the year about Public Art Saint Paul. A few will be familiar, a few might blow your mind, but all will spotlight the incredible impact this organization has had on the City over the past 30 years. Check back for weekly updates!
Did you know…
#1: It all began in 1987 when art consultant and passionate Saint Paul advocate Christine Podas-Larson recognized the need for art to play a greater role in the civic life and public space of the City. She got to work, gathered partners and friends, and launched Saint Paul Public Art.
#2: We’re celebrating…The late 1980s and early 1990s when artists Brad Goldberg, Cliff Garten, and Jackie Ferrara helped design three signature gathering spaces in the City: Mears Park, Kellogg Mall Park, and Hamm Plaza.
#3: We’re celebrating…A groundbreaking series of neighborhood design workshops led by artists Kinji Akagawa, Seitu Jones, and Jodi Hohman in 1993 that resulted in renewed streetscapes, parks and gardens in the neighborhoods of St. Anthony Park, Dale/University and East Side.
#4: We’re celebrating…the 1993 Public Art Saint Paul collaboration with the Saint Paul Foundation, City of Saint Paul, and Ramsey County to engage artists Cliff Garten, Ta-coumba Aiken, Armando Gutierrez, Xiaowei Ma, Roberta Hill-Whitman, and Soyini Guyton in creating the Saint Paul Cultural Garden at Robert Street and Kellogg Boulevard. Here, interlocking spaces feature sculptures and poetry that commemorate the immigrants who have created this city on the Mississippi.
#5: 1993 marked an important beginning: Public Art Saint Paul joined forces with the Smithsonian’s Save Outdoor Sculpture program to assess, conserve and maintain St. Paul’s historic public art. Thirty years later, we’re still at it!
#6: We’re celebrating…ambition and engagement! In 1994, we collaborated with artist/architect James Carpenter on a stunning V-shaped mast design for a new Wabasha Street Bridge. It inspired many, and, while it was never realized, it sparked widespread renewed interest in the City’s Mississippi riverfront.
#7: For more than 20 years… people have enjoyed places of respite on Summit Hill, with stunning views of the Mississippi River, thanks to Public Art Saint Paul’s conservation of two significant bronze sculptures—Nathan Hale by artist William Ordway Partridge (1907) and Indian Hunter and his Dog by Paul Manship (1926).
#8: We’ve never been at a loss for ideas at Public Art Saint Paul! Early in our life, dozens of artists, designers, and community members attended the Mayor’s Design Forum convenings in 1995, 1997 and 1999, fueling an abundance of creative ideas for improving public spaces.
#9: In 1996, Public Art Saint Paul set an ambitious goal of 20 new art works by 2000 in the City of Saint Paul, and used this “20 by 2000” as a rallying cry for a major fundraising campaign. This effort emerged after PASP updated its Save Our Sculpture survey, and determined that the city was “woefully sculpture poor.” And, most public art was in the downtown, while neighborhoods were lacking. That launched PASP to determine ways to spread art throughout the city so that “people could experience art every time they walk out their door.” The 20 x 2000 goal was met.
#10: In 1996, Public Art Saint Paul worked with The Saint Paul Foundation to commission a sculpture of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the world famous writer who grew up in Saint Paul and authored the classic novel, The Great Gatsby. Sculptor and Hamline University faculty Michael B. Price created the bronze sculpture that stands at a corner of Rice Park in downtown. Its dedication in September 1996 was part of a citywide celebration to mark Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday.
#11: The 5,300-square foot terrazzo floor in RiverCentre’s grand rotunda is the largest and most complex art floor in Minnesota with an intricate mural depicting a Mississippi River basin with water cascading from the staircase and pooling around the rotunda’s six monumental piers. Public Art Saint Paul led the commissioning of this amazing floor mural, along with a series of eight windows along the façade of RiverCentre building, for the opening of a building in 1997 that has become an important convening space and economic engine for Saint Paul.
#12: For 30 years, Public Art Saint Paul has inspired our community in new ways. One of the most important moments: the 1997 Mayor’s Design Forum, where artists displayed their proposals for work in the river valley, including models of Harriet Island and the Wabasha Bridge, which spurred renewed attention to the City’s stunning river valley.
#13: Strolling through Western Sculpture Park, just steps from the State Capitol, is one of the great ways to pass a few hours on a lovely summer day. This engaging showcase of 20 sculptures grew out of the 1995 Mayor’s Design Forum, with Public Art Saint Paul, the City’s Department of Parks, Franconia Sculpture Park founder John Hock and resident Dan Fix as driving forces. Today, the park is an important addition to the diverse neighborhood and a place where hundreds of neighborhood children enjoy free artmaking workshops.
#14: We’re celebrating 30 years of working with our neighbors…In 1998, Public Art Saint Paul joined with businesses on the West Side to incorporate public art into the neighborhood. Artist Amy Cordova developed the neighborhood’s public art plan and created several works of art. Artists John Acosta and Carlos Menchaca created a mural for the pedestrian bridge over Robert Street, and artist Craig David utilized 14 two-ton limestone rocks from the historic Wabasha Street Bridge to create Journey of the River and Sun in the plaza at Wabasha and Concord.
#15: For more than 75 years, the New York Life Eagle, created by American artist Augustus and Louis Saint-Gaudens in 1889, adorned a two-story arch of a building at 6th and Minnesota Streets, until the structure was demolished in 1967. Enter Public Art Saint Paul in 1999 to oversee the eagle’s conservation and installation in 2004 in Overlook Park on Summit Avenue. The large bronze bird stands guard over the stunning Mississippi River Valley below, where today one can see live eagles soaring.
#16: We love music, too! In 2002, Public Art Saint Paul initiated an idea with The Schubert Club to create an outdoor bandstand. Artist James Carpenter designed a small, elegant arching bandstand on Raspberry Island, visible from Kellogg Boulevard in downtown. The structure was named for big band leader William Kugler, whose musical instrument collection forms the basis of The Schubert Club museum in Landmark Center.
#17: Public Art Saint Paul’s City Artist program, one of the first of its kind in the country, has become a leading model for helping city departments shape public spaces, improve city systems, and deepen civic engagement. Established with the City of Saint Paul in 2005, it is emulated in cities across the U.S. Today, two Public Art Saint Paul artists work side-by-side with colleagues in many city departments, including public works, parks, planning and economic development and libraries. We celebrate our first City Artists, sculptor Steven Woodward and conceptual artist Marcus Young, and our current City Artists, Amanda Lovelee and Aaron Dysart, whose creativity and passion make our city a better place to live, work and play.
#18: More than 13,000 visitors from around the world came to St. Paul in 2006 for Public Art Saint Paul’s Minnesota Rocks!, an exploration of the ongoing power and vitality of traditional stone carving. Over six weeks, artists from Japan, Germany, China, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Finland, and Minnesota selected and carved a large stone, with the creative process on view to the public. The 12 resulting artworks are permanently installed in parks throughout Saint Paul.
#19: The University Avenue Project by photographer Wing Young Huie, produced by Public Art Saint Paul from 2008-2010, was one of our biggest projects ever. Over two years, Huie documented through more than 20,000 photographs the complex cultural and socioeconomic diversity of neighborhoods along University Avenue, now the route for the Green Line. For six months in 2010, the photographs were exhibited—some produced at an enormous scale—in a six-mile outdoor and storefront gallery. In a parking lot amidst buildings on University Avenue, nightly projections of Huie’s images were shown on a 440-square foot screen, accompanied by a soundtrack featuring local musicians. Monthly community cabarets at the site featured local musical and theatrical performers. Importantly, the Minnesota Historical Society, in collaboration with PASP, published a two-volume book of the project.
#20: 950 poems on city sidewalks? Seriously? Yes! In 2008, Public Art Saint Paul’s City Artist Marcus Young created “Everyday Poems for City Sidewalks,” an open-air book of poems on City sidewalks, written by local residents. Since that time, PASP has continued to work with the City’s Department of Public Works to oversee the stamping of poems into sidewalks during routine replacement of cracked or damaged sidewalks. The result? Walkways have become a public book, providing moments of open-air reading for residents and visitors every day.
#21: St. Paul has vision! In 2009, the City Council passed the 1% Public Art Ordinance, an effort Public Art Saint Paul helped spearhead. This ordinance is unique across the country because artists add their perspectives and insights to the city’s planning efforts and create public art for capital projects.
#22: We celebrate environmental artist Christine Baeumler, who is hard at work on our Bee Real Bee Everywhere project and who, in 2010, began working with Public Art Saint Paul, Capital Region Watershed District and Ramsey County Water District to develop ideas for how art could make the watershed more visible to the public and how art could be part of water stewardship infrastructure. She continues to be one of our city’s great leaders in this arena.
#23: St. Paul streets have not been the same since Marcus Young, serving as Public Art Saint Paul’s city artist, engaged sculptors Lisa Elias and Brad Kaspari to imagine artwork to enliven streetscapes on residential blocks. These brilliants artists researched possibilities and began designing artful posts with plant motifs and sculptural abstractions that today subtly change the experience of everyday life in Saint Paul neighborhoods
#24: We’re celebrating the amazing things we learned in our City Art Collaboratory, as detailed in the wonderful book Meandering Methodologies, Deviant Disciplines. Check out the exploration, conversation and collaboration of artists and scientists who joined together for projects focused on the intersection of public art, renewed civic engagement and environmental sustainability.
#25: Dinner for 2,000 at a half-mile-long table? Impossible? No! This was CREATE: The Community Meal, the culmination of artist Seitu Jones’ multi-month project to engage entire city in a civic conversation about food, food access, and food justice. Following several months of small, home-based dinners in the Frogtown neighborhood, local chefs prepared the meal of locally and organically grown produce for 2,000, at a table in the middle of Victoria Street. PASP continues to work on the intersections of art and food justice with partners Asian Economic Development Association, Frogtown Farm, and Urban Farm and Garden Alliance.
#26: Urban Flower Field, designed by City Artist Amanda Lovelee in collaboration with University of St. Thomas scientists and city planners, animated a vacant city lot with 96 bio-diverse plots of flowers and spiraling walkways and mural, designed in a mathematical “Fibonacci sequence.” Researchers continue to document the plants’ ability to remove harmful substances from the soil, and with movable lawn chairs and a plaza, the park continue to provide a wonderful place for people to congregate. No wonder the project won the 2014 Great Places Award from the Sensible Land Use Coalition!
#27: In 2015, City Artist Artist Amanda Lovelee tested the idea of using a playfully designed city truck to encourage greater input into city planning. Hundreds of people at festivals and other community gatherings shared their ideas and feedback through “Pop Up Meetings” in exchange for a delicious St. Paul Pops popsicle. City departments continue to use Pop Up Meetings as a fun and effective way to engage residents.