Grace Minnesota co-founder Marcus Young was on Nicollet Mall last Thursday evening as part of the “Don’t you feel it too?” public dance project. The project performs on Mondays and Thursdays.

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

$1.3 million sparks Twin Cities creative projects

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON
  • Star Tribune
  • June 12, 2012 - 10:01 AM

Four Twin Cities arts groups will receive $1.3 million over the next year to deploy artists and the arts to improve civic and cultural life.

The funds come from ArtPlace, a relatively new national initiative by 11 major foundations, eight federal agencies and six banks "to accelerate creative placemaking across the U.S," according to the announcement made Tuesday.

"Across the country, cities and towns are using the arts to help shape their social, physical and economic characters," said Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, one of the funders.

Public Art St. Paul is getting $300,000 to build on its program that embeds conceptual and performing artist Marcus Young in the St. Paul Public Works department, where he has had an office since 2006. Young's most visible accomplishment to date as the city's artist in residence is a sidewalk poetry project.

"Each year, the city of St. Paul replaces about 10 miles worth of sidewalks," he said. "If you think of the city as a book, what if we had a poem stamped into the sidewalk on every corner?"

Intermedia Arts, known as a hub of diverse, kinetic performances and artists in south Minneapolis, is getting $325,000 to embed four artists in the city of Minneapolis' planning process.

Pillsbury House Theatre intends to use its $250,000 grant to expedite the development of an arts district in its south Minneapolis neighborhood.

"We already have an arts area developing naturally here, including [photographer] Wing Young Huie's studio on 38th," said Alan Berks, communications director of Pillsbury House. "We're going to do 20 arts projects that involve community participation, foster more arts growth and visibly affect the corridor."

The Native American Community Development Institute intends to use its $435,000 grant to construct a pedestrian plaza and seating on Franklin Avenue around the light-rail station. The plans include building an area for performances and a marketplace for vendors.

"We see this as a catalytic element for one of our main projects, which is the development of the American Indian Cultural Corridor," said Andy Hestness, interim president and CEO of the NACDI. "This bridges a lot of gaps, a lot of fractures in our neighborhood and helps to make it more vibrant."

The projects in the Twin Cities are part of a nationwide effort with 47 grants. All aim to revitalize communities.

"Art is a smart investment whose returns can be measured in economic impact, in quality of life and in vibrancy," said ArtPlace director Carol Coletta. "These investments are in projects that are intensely rich with learning opportunities for the rest of the nation."

The national effort is being appreciated at the ground level in St. Paul.

"Often, the arts are included in public life late in the process or as an afterthought," said Christine Podas-Larson, president of Public Art St. Paul, which normally has a $600,000 to $700,000 budget and 4.5 full-time employees. "This grant allows us to be at the be upstream in the process and to share what artists know."

Added Berks of Pillsbury House Theatre: "Artists know about more than lighting a stage or taking a picture or painting or playing" he said. "This asks artists to bring their expertise to helping cities and communities be sustainable."

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390 Twitter: @rohanpreston

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