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Late last week, Public Art Saint Paul (a Knight Arts grantee) announced the expansion of its City Artist in Residence (CAIR) initiative, a six-year-old partnership between PASP and the City of St. Paul (also a Knight Arts grantee). The CAIR program stems from a desire to move artists “upstream” in infrastructure development and civic creative placemaking efforts, placing artists-in-residence inside government offices where they can work directly with St. Paul’s public works staffers to find creative solutions and aesthetic enhancements for all kinds of city projects and programs.

Marcus Young on site for a project he’s created as CAIR – Wishes for the Sky, an annual public kite-flying celebration of Earth Day on St. Paul’s Harriet Island. Photo by Chris Roberts, courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio

Marcus Young, a conceptual/behavioral artist, has been St. Paul’s CAIR since 2006, funded by Public Art Saint Paul and operating from within the city’s Public Works department. During his tenure, Young has worked toward practical integration of arts experiences into a variety of city-run projects – everything from public art-making events to street construction and the restoration of Lowertown’s just opened Union Depot. Notable among his contributions as St Paul’s resident artist is the creation of Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk, for which the city’s Public Works department issues an open call for poems every year. From those submissions a number of short verses are selected – poems written by school kids and work-a-day citizens as well as professional writers – to be molded directly into sidewalk panels slated for replacement. More than 500 poems grace the sidewalks of St. Paul now, five years on – little literary surprises to delight passing pedestrians in neighborhoods all over the city.

Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk, another of Young’s works as CAIR and which just completed its fifth year as an integral part of the City of St. Paul’s annual sidewalk replacement program. Photo courtesy of Public Art Saint Paul

Public Art Saint Paul’s CAIR program has been supported by a number of local and national funders, and now thanks to an additional ArtPlace grant (for which Knight Foundation is a significant funder), Young will no longer be the City of St. Paul’s only such “embedded” artist. He will serve as Artistic Director of the program, leading a team of other similar artists-in-residence, based in St. Paul Public Works but working across city agencies. Each CAIR will propose a new “City Art” work informed by their “immersion experience” working in city government, culminated by a “demonstration project” that will be funded by Public Art Saint Paul.

After a national call to artists, two have been selected to join Young on the team. Amanda Lovelee, a visual artist whose interests range from photography to interactive works emphasizing social and community connection-building (like the Really Big Table project shown in the video above), has been named City Artist in Residence for Temporal Work and Public Engagement. Sarah West, a multidisciplinary artist experienced in both architectural and public art installations, will serve as City Artist in Residence for Streets and Open Space.

“I Am Waiting” by Sarah West (in collaboration with Christopher Field). A video collage for the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center Marquee is a visual representation of the rhythm and patterns of urban circulation. The intersections of movement highlight the shifting perspectives of color, speed and texture. Photo courtesy of the artist’s website

According to ArtPlace’s information about the grant online, by “building a cohort of artists (CAIRs) immersed within a broader constellation of public agencies… the [aim of the program is] no less than to transform how the city is experienced creatively.” Check back here on Wednesday, when I’ll post more details about St. Paul’s new City Artists in Residence: I’m interviewing Lovelee and West about the plans they have percolating as they begin in these new roles and will report back on what we might see from them in the coming months.

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