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Continued: Cities turn to artists as urban troubleshooters

The Arts on Chicago project came out of a desire to keep the local talent local.

The low-income neighborhood is rich in artist residents, many of whom work elsewhere. Now these painters, sculptors and writers are involved in creating artsy bike racks, wheeling a “poetry mobile” around and creating an urban nature walk.

“It’s about anchoring assets that already exist in communities, as opposed to developing new places to attract artists from the outside,” said Noël Raymond, co-artistic director of Pillsbury House Theatre at Chicago Avenue S. and 35th Street.

Young — who is paid by the private nonprofit Public Arts St. Paul, not tax dollars — sees part of his job as applying the ethereal to the practical.

“If artists aren’t brought into the picture last-minute or sideways, but as far upstream as possible, we can make a difference. I see every day how hard city employees work to fix the infrastructure, … But a city is more than hard surfaces.”

Early in his residency, he recalls telling Mayor Coleman that he felt like “a virus floating around, attaching myself to different organs of the city that I want to impact.”

Coleman replied, “A virus in the right dose is an inoculation.”

In January, the city upped that dosage, taking on two more artists-in-residence, also paid for by Public Arts St. Paul. Next up? Finding a way to commemorate trees marked for takedown by those garish rings of bright spray paint.


Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046

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