Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Placemaking in St. Paul, Minnesota

Yesterday Crystal Bailly, a fellow UND student, posted a link to this site from her Facebook account about an interesting community art project developing in the Twin Cities. Community art events are always interesting to me. Often, or at least this is how I interpret them, public art works are for the enjoyment of community. This one is too, but their emphasis on placemaking is an intruiging nuance. What does a public art project, shared and created by a neighborhood have to with placemaking?

Their website states, "Through the process of creating the community square, social connections and relationships between neighbors increase and improve, strengthening the ability of a community to respond to issues and opportunities and to take care of one another. The benefits of placemaking by street painting are multiple: development of relationships and social networks; creation of a community gathering place; calmed traffic; crime prevention; and a local neighborhood identity." And this, "Placemaking is people coming together and actively working to turn generic public spaces into community places where people can create connections with one another. By using elements such as art, sculpture, benches and plants, and by “activating” spaces by planning human activity, a generic space can be turned into a place where community gathers, happens and thrives."

I find their use of the public streets quite interesting. Marc Auge critiques contemporary culture for merely existing in a placeless environment where he cites malls, freeways, and even televisions as "non-place" that simply facilitate movement of consumers across the city without the construction of any placed based notions. This project instead, celebrates the a unique community and their community that engages in a shared project to beautify and mark (and perhaps in a sense name or claim a shared space) for the benefit of both the insiders and outsiders to the community.

I have some basic questions about process...who and how are the works designed? How long do they last? Do they move in the neighborhood from year to year? Are their restrictions to content?

Anyway...I thought it was an interesting concept. Thoughts? Are there other similar projects out there?