• Utopian Podium

Utopian Podium

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 sparks imagination by inviting artists and the public to dream together in playful, participatory outdoor events.

The 2017 season kicked off with the “Bees Live Here”, an installation at Northern Spark, created by artist, beekeeper and chef/entrepreneur Susan Brown and videographer Brian Lesteberg. In conjunction, every hour on the hour poets published in the recent anthology If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems, edited by Jim Lenfestey, with odes to bees at Public Art Saint Paul’s “Utopian Podium.” Visitors stepped to the podium to voice their ideas for how to help bees thrive and received a free honey stick.

About the Podium

Public Art Saint Paul staff visited Jim Duignan in Chicago in the fall of 2015. 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.




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
Mardag Foundation