Church of Hope, at 601 – 13th Avenue SE in Minneapolis last night (June 13). We talked about our Central Corridor, public art planning process, our community video project, and about our Victoria Greenline demonstration project. Frogtown Farms, a neighborhood gardening project was also discussed. The meeting was facilitated by Works Progress.
This report was written by Mason Riddle.
It was an intimate but thoughtful group of people who attended the meeting, bringing with them a range of experiences and questions. A regular church basement gathering. One person had lived in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood, Minneapolis’ oldest neighborhood, for many years, (where the meeting took place) and another had moved to Minneapolis only four days earlier. One person worked at the Minnesota Daily, the University of Minnesota’s newspaper, while another worked in the University’s Institute of Advanced Studies. Others came with public art experience while some had none at all.
As in the previous two meetings, the participants played a game of “tag.” Here, everyone was encouraged to ask questions about public art along the Central Corridor (CC) – or the CC itself – and anyone who had an answer responded. Everyone agreed that the CC construction was diabolical, and when it is finally completed (tales of woe abound) the world will be a much better place.
For example, one participant wanted to learn about the important destination points along the CC and it was agreed that some sort of guide or map should be developed that would include art, restaurants, cultural sites, gardens etc. Another spoke about the creative riches and events embedded in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood such as the new informational kiosk at the east end of the Stone Arch Bridge. A third wondered if public art could facilitate making Minneapolis and Saint Paul more unified in scope with one response stating that the two cities’ unique personalities were a good thing. Others wanted to know if local artists, or artists from specific communities along the CC were making the public art, and if there was a plan in place for the upkeep and long-term maintenance of the public art.
Public Art in the 21st Century
A central theme of the presentation and discussion was the idea that ‘public art’ could be more than a specific object or thing – a sculpture, benches, lighting or a tile floor – but that it could be more a set of activities or events that were integral to a particular neighborhood or community of people, such as community gardens or celebrations. Was there an entirely new way to produce public art that reflected a community’s passions, needs and issues? Could there be a new system of public art?
To me it seemed the CC public art masterplan – and the discussion group – was evolving into developing a more activist approach to public art making. What could public art “be” in the future? Topics, already in the mix, centered on food, food systems and gardening, storm water management, gathering spaces that reflected various cultural identities and activities without be exclusionary, and what would make communities more healthy.
It was also acknowledged that both cities had paid, artist-in-residencies positions, and that all sorts of city departments and systems would benefit from having artists on board for decision-making processes. Artists should be on all types of review panels. Of course, public artists, public art professionals and certain enlightened urban designers, public officials and citizenry have long known this to be true for many years.
Participants then moved into two breakout groups focused on the future of the CC in relationship to water, cultural identity, creativity etc.
The Creativity Group in which I participated, discussed how issues of creativity could and should impact the CC. It was mentioned that creativity and critical thinking could potentially assuage future issues and problems. It was also discussed:
- There should be no missed opportunities
- Continue artist-in-residency positions in both cities
- The need for more creative activities in parks and gathering spaces; that people should go to parks to do things beyond recreational/athletic activities.
- Fountains with sculptures of nudes, as found more often in European parks, would add to the visual landscape. Nudes, of course, are great. But the idea here is that there could be more welcoming, visual interest in public spaces. Beauty and delight are good.
- The idea of a huge community dinner, whose menu would be largely created from local food production, and whose elements such as tables, dinnerware and flatware etc. would be locally sourced as much as possible.
- The development of a bartering system where individuals or groups could trade their products, services or expertise with others.
- The creation of a Supermap, where the foci of products, expertise or specialization could be identified to encourage systems of bartering, exchange and trade, i.e. “I will give you a pound of my butter I just made in exchange for two pounds of your fresh asparagus.”
In summation, the Creativity group identified two important concepts for the future health of the Central Corridor.
1. The creation of a SuperMap, that would identify local community resources of products and services that could be exchanged, traded or bartered. From my perspective this could include food, gardening, art, music (lessons, performances), home, auto and bike maintenance and repair services, sewing/mending/tailoring expertise, animal/pet care, healthcare information and maybe even financial advice. The SuperMap could also identify restaurants and cafes that locally source food, and cultural resources from artists to bookstores to galleries, and cultural/art organizations. This could be online, be a Smartphone App or even a printed map.
2. Parks and Gathering Spaces that are used and occupied, and not just places to pass through, admire or be used for special occasions. Rather than the parks/gathering spaces/riverfronts being used for singular athletic activities (running, walking, inline skating) or for special events, say a 4th of July celebration, people could migrate to a particular park/gathering space for a range of activities from reading and chess playing to dancing and performing. For example on a given day or time, people would know that from 5-7:00 on Tuesday one can go to a particular site and Square Dance. A different time or day a site could be for those who want to recite Shakespeare out-loud, get African drum lessons, or be a Barbizon-like artist and paint en plein air with like-minded souls. Some parks or gathering spaces might have a more cultural or ethnic focus, depending on the community in which they are found.