A Living Public Art Project for Arlington Hills Community Center on the east side of saint paul
“Belonging is that deep feeling of fitting in, the grounding knowledge of how we and others are linked together. In belonging, individual longings are held together in a way that allows life to happen. This is the root of resilience and of regeneration – being intimately and intelligently in connection and collaboration, so that we can adapt and evolve.” — Curtis Ogden, “The Practice of Belonging”
Belong Together is a living public art project rooted in the Arlington Hills Community Center (AHCC) and its East Side St. Paul neighborhood. This project celebrates the unique individuals who comprise this diverse community, asking them to explore the common ground they share through public art and public activities on the themes of caring for others and the environment, living and belonging together, and resilience and regeneration - themes that have informed our artistic decisions throughout the research and design phase of this proposed project.
The framework for this project was, in part, inspired by an encounter with a potted coleus plant at Polly’s Coffee Cove that is over 40 years old. Through the past four decades individuals have kept this plant alive, propagating it throughout the community in the form of plant cuttings shared in a social way. We see this project as a similar kind of social practice: A way of tending to each other and nourishing life; as a connective, creative community ritual taking root.
The proposed public art installations will be created by Works Progress Studio with artistic and community collaborators. These include a large sign that declares the theme as a positive statement and rallying point for the community, a mobile gathering place for creative community activities with living plant components, and a media pod where residents young and old can share the stories that are important to them. In addition to these core components, we plan to dedicate a significant portion of the budget to curating and commissioning a collection of permanent artwork for the building based on the themes of Belong Together.
To activate the public art, we will to develop a community engagement plan in collaboration with AHCC staff and community partners that will breathe life into the project, keeping it fresh and relevant into the future. The foundation of this plan is a “Community Care Corps” comprised of East Side residents who will take creative leadership within the building and provide ongoing care for the living art installations. The final piece of Belong Together is a media project focused on the creation and exhibition of videos that bring the themes of the project to life, highlighting stories from within the community of belonging, care, and regeneration. In its pilot year, this project would focus on youth and seniors, encouraging an intergenerational storytelling project that results in media to be exhibited inside the building.
While the scope of this project goes beyond the initial public art commission, we are confident that with the collaboration of staff and community partners, we can develop the support for the additional programmatic components of this project. The individual pieces of this project together make a whole designed to unfold and evolve with time. Our goal is to help staff and visitors to AHCC create a beloved public art project as well as the means for sustaining it over time.