Shifting demographics and a growing interest in the arts have Dakota County’s largest suburb looking to redefine its identity through visual aesthetics.
Eagan is developing an Arts and Culture Master Plan, which city leaders hope will provide a blueprint for how to incorporate public art that engages residents.
“Art is a medium for a community to express its values and identity,” said Juli Seydell Johnson, Eagan’s parks and recreation director. “It just helps people put an image with how we feel about the community already.”
The plan provides recommendations for the City Council to approve on how to accept art donations, what criteria the pieces should meet and where they should be placed within the city. Funding sources for public art have yet to be determined, Johnson said.
Criteria for future public art will include the relation of the piece to the physical and cultural context of the site. For example, artwork located within a park may include a nature element.
Over the past few years, Eagan has seen a dramatic growth in artistic participation and appreciation, advocates said. Fall registrations for programming at the Eagan Art House — an organization that offers art classes and workshops for all age groups — rose 20 percent between 2013 and 2014.
Theater productions have also seen a boost in attendance.
Those opportunities have spurred a sort of “awakening of art in the suburbs,” said Kay Brown, co-founder of the Art House and managing director of the Eagan Theatre Company. Public art and local performances draw young families because the activities build community, Brown said.
But as community art becomes increasingly popular, Brown said the city may need to look into creating more physical space, such as an arts center. Neighboring cities like Burnsville have already invested in larger performing arts venues.
“The older we get, it would be nice to be able to drive someplace in Eagan to be able to have that experience,” she said.