Public Art for Bees and People

Going back nearly 3,000 years, humans have intimately engaged with a well-known pollinator, Apis mellifera. Urban beekeepers in ancient Greece, Israel, and China originally kept them to harvest their sweet honey, using clay hives, straw skeps, and wooden boxes as homes for their precious friends. Today, while urban beekeeping is in resurgence, I imagine our national conversation has a different tone and new set of priorities.

Public Art Saint Paul has a new public art project underway that engages the current conversations about the plight of bees and other pollinators. We now hear about native bees, monarch corridors, and pollinator friendly gardens. Studies show that the loss of natural habitat for many insects threaten our food security, thus, new ideas have arisen about safekeeping these species. We now concentrate on preservation of our wild and lesser-known nectar hunters and not only on cultivated honeybees. I like to think of the ancient form of urban beekeeping to having evolved into a more holistic practice in pollinator awareness.

Environmental artist Chris Baeumler and City Artist Amanda Lovely currently are envisioning urban pollinator habitats for Bee Real Bee Everywhere that involve bee houses that will be sculptural high-rises, plant species education for St. Paul residents, and small bee sculptures to recognize advocates for pollinators. As a project assistant on Bee Real, I am grateful to be part of a project that so dynamically interconnects art, science and public engagement.

After more than a year of planning and design, our ideas are now coming together for debut next summer to share with the public. Our bee houses will be installed in several Saint Paul neighborhoods next summer. Education interns will provide pollinator education delivered via a bike-able “bee cart”.

The diagram featured here provides a visual clue of what is in the works, showing relationships among all the elements of this project. As we integrate and develop our city streets, residential landscapes, and even rooftops to host these vital and symbiotic species, we cross-pollinate our ideas and specialties, creating a future sensitive to our ecosphere.

Bee Real Bee Everywhere is a project of Public Art Saint Paul with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Saint Paul Public Art Ordinance. Look for more coming this summer!


By Julie Benda, Project Assistant
Winter 2017 Newsletter Article