Revitalization and renewal are such commonly used buzzwords that they’ve lost some of their impact. But the urban landscape is one that will always require fresh efforts of adaptation to shifting trends. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnesota have recently witnessed new attempts to accommodate changes in economy, transportation, and consumerism.
One such example of this is the Starling Project, which was founded last year to stimulate activity on the streets; streets that have been all but abandoned during intensive construction of the Central Corridor light rail line. While the promise of public transportation may eventually result in increased revenue in the area, many businesses have been forced to close as several months of construction has disrupted the daily flow of traffic.
Addressing this problem, a group of graduate students with backgrounds in landscape architecture, urban planning, and architecture were inspired by the model of the starling that utilizes abandoned nests for its own home. In this case, the Starling Project is combating vacancy with vitality by filling unoccupied shops with artists, entrepreneurs, and community groups by encouraging short-term leases and creative collaborations.
Across town, in the multi-ethnic mixed use Whittier neighborhood, Artists in Storefronts is also attempting to activate underutilized spaces through creative expression. The brainchild of Joan Vorderbruggen, this collective attempts to beautify the pedestrian experience by making the sidewalk a sort of gallery. In some cases, art is available for consumption as prints or sculptural displays in windows. In other instances, the community is invited to participate in the dialogue as they interact with the Before I Die… wall inspired by public artist and activist Candy Chang.
The Artists in Storefronts project recently received an anonymous donation to support the continuation of this public art. Several community development organizations and local property owners support the Starling Project. Both groups have been featured in the national press and utilize social media marketing.
Beyond simply beautifying the streetscape, how do enterprises like these improve the public’s perception of space and place?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.