Above: Visitors gaze at the stories of immigrants in the St. Paul skyways. Photos by Alicia Eler.
The St. Paul skyways are home to more than just transient office workers.
Speaking of Home is a new project initiated by artist Nancy Ann Coyne that fills four St. Paul skyways with floor-to-ceiling images and stories of immigrants to the Twin Cities. When skyway transients look out of the windows and onto the streets, they'll literally look through the eyes of immigrants, too.
There’s a humorous candor to many of the short blurbs written by the 58 immigrants. Some are mostly practical, about how they came here and why, whereas others voice some truth nuggets about life under Minnesota Nice (aka Minnesota Ice).
One such blurb is by Marla Jadoonanan, who immigrated to Minnesota in 1969 with her brothers. Her photo in the skyway is of her and her brothers in San Fernando/Trinidad, before they immigrated.
“Minneapolis became a home because we really had no other choice,” writes Jadoonanan. “There are opportunities here, you can become someone. In Trinidad, it’s basically who you know, but here I dislike that people judge you by your skin color and appearance.”
Of course that is not all – Marla was able to open a restaurant here in Minnesota in 2005. It’s called Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine and is located in Minneapolis. So, it’s not all bad. “Today, I’m happy. I’ve conquered hard times,” she says.
Marla's photograph. Photo by Alicia Eler.
There are 57 other interesting stories from immigrants that line the long skyways. They’re worth making a special trip for, or just stopping by on your lunch break. Stare into the eyes of other people rather than your grubby Sbarro pasta dish that you got at a skyway cafeteria.
There are 47 skyway bridges in St. Paul, and each one is 77 feet long. This project, which occupies four heavily trafficked skyways, was underway long before President Trump’s restrictions on immigration took effect. The first public artwork installed in the St. Paul skyways, which are the world’s largest publicly owned skyway system, Speaking of Home is a curious way to experience the seeming permanency of home in a physical space that is entirely transitory and functional.
Coyne also worked with Steve Carpenter, CEO of Archetype, and attorney Carol Lansing, to create a new ordinance, approved by the St.Paul City Council, allowing for art to be installed in the skyways.
The exhibition continues in the St. Paul skyways through March 8, 2018.
Above: Rachel Raz, an immigrant from Israel who currently works as a social worker and lives in Minneapolis. This photo was special to her because it was taken when she was 13, and it was the fist time she ever wore makeup. The photo was taken by someone from a Filipino dance troupe that visited the kibbutz where she lived. She believes that home is "where you plant your garden."