Public feedback is being sought on three concepts for a permanent public art display in honor of the late Larry Cohen, to be located outside the place where he served as mayor, commissioner and judge — the St. Paul City Hall-Ramsey County Courthouse building.
Cohen, who died in 2016 at the age of 83, was the only person to serve as St. Paul mayor, chairman of the Ramsey County Board and Ramsey County District Court chief judge.
He was renowned for his support and work on behalf of communities of color and immigrants, including the arrival of Hmong refugees in the late 1970s and '80s.
St. Paul artist Marjorie Pitz, who was selected by a community committee, developed three ideas for the plaza outside the City Hall-Courthouse at the corner of Kellogg Boulevard and Wabasha Street. The only things there now are planters and a flagpole.
The first design, called "You are Welcome," features a grassy area surrounded by a "circular outdoor gallery of artist-painted chairs" that represent diverse groups, Pitz said. Selected artists would offer designs that touch on cultural pride, social justice, immigration and other themes.
The second design, "Solar Radiance," is said to infuse design and art into the concrete. Third is "Circles of Doves and Light," which would string glistening beads or luminaries on overhead posts. Quotes would be engraved in the posts and pavement.
All three designs are still in the concept phase and will be further developed based on community feedback, which can be provided online at surveymonkey.com/r/VPFKTKL through Feb. 23 or at three presentations led by Pitz.
The first presentation will be from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Rondo Community Library, 461 N. Dale St., St. Paul. Sessions also will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at the City Hall-Courthouse, and from 11 a.m. to noon Feb. 15 at Neighborhood House, 179 E. Robie St., St. Paul.
Cohen, a St. Paul native, was elected to the County Board in 1970. Two years later he was elected mayor of St. Paul and served through 1976. Gov. Rudy Perpich appointed Cohen to the Ramsey County bench in 1988.
Cohen retired in 2002 but continued to serve as a senior judge.
Throughout his career, he championed the rights of women, immigrants, Native Americans and other groups that have been marginalized.
"He would see injustice, see something broken and say, 'How do we fix this?' " said Cohen's widow, Kathi Donnelly-Cohen, in an interview last year. "He was an incredible man."
Cohen was influential in efforts to buy the old federal courthouse on Rice Park in downtown St. Paul and have it restored into what is now Landmark Center, a publicly owned cultural center listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's regularly used for exhibitions and music, dance and theater programs.
Both Ramsey County and St. Paul have contributed $100,000 to the Cohen Recognition Project.
Otto Bremer Trust, St. Paul Foundation and F.R. Bigelow Foundation also have contributed, as well as the Hmong community and the Cohen family.