Streetscapes are the connective tissue of cities. Their design, development and maintenance is a fundamental role of city engineering: paving, lighting, trees and bikeways are the visible; gutters, storm drains, utilities are the underlying invisible. They offer opportunities for art to elevate communities, one block and one neighborhood at a time.
Saint Paul Streets seamlessly aligns with existing public improvements. Flora stop sign posts by Lisa Elias, made of self-weathering steel, replace irreparable or expired standard stop signs, are complemented by Brad Kaspari’s floral rain gardens, which make the invisible water system visible.
Saint Paul Streets re-imagines traditional assumptions of street vitality. Building on ideas established in Young’s sidewalk poetry project, Saint Paul Streets has developed new strategies and new reasons to insert public art in the narrow spaces of the seemingly complete and engineered street. The systemic transformation of place is quietly dramatic. With more than 7,000 stop signs in present-day Saint Paul, and with the plan to install more rain gardens in the future, the potential for art to create a new order in our everyday streets is realizable.
At the southeast corner of Macalester St. and Juliet Ave., two public art systems developed for streetscapes come together in a rare moment of synergy, with poetry from Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk immediately next to a flora stop sign post. One can imagine how these and future public art systems will one day weave together throughout the city to create a rich and artful public realm.
Numerous projects are underway in 2017: City Artist Aaron Dysart, with the artist team of Lisa Elias and Brad Kaspari, are expanding their repertoire from stop sign posts to include posts for no parking signs and bus stops. They also are designing new sculptures that will hang on lampposts and torchieres that will light a walkway with solar powered lights. Brad and Lisa are exploring how benches and bollards might be made into public art in three neighborhoods, Irve Dell is developing a new design for stop sign posts, to be installed this fall, and artists James Brenner and Teréz Iacovino are imagining new neighborhood projects to expand the artistic palette of Saint Paul.