Column: Listen & Learn: A monthly conversation for public art

By Barbara La Valleur

Edina Public Art Committee


Got to thinking about Mayor Jim Hovland’s “walk & talk” the other morning while getting ready for a public art meeting on placemaking. And I came up with a similar idea focusing on public art in Edina.

I’m calling it Listen & Learn. It is a monthly conversation where you talk and I (along with other members of the Edina Public Art Committee, EPAC) listen about new ways to incorporate public art in Edina to enhance the city. Allow me to explain my thinking.

Mayor Hovland invites Edina residents to meet him once a month at pre-determined places to Walk with the Mayor. It started as part of the initiative to lead a healthy lifestyle. In January, the warmth and convenience of Southdale drew about 15 residents – including my husband – who shared their ideas and concerns for the city with the mayor on a two-mile walk. Last Saturday, the walk was at the Galleria.

Since being elected EPAC chair in September, I have met with numerous people to find out what they’re interested in and how they can partner with EPAC to transform Edina into a community known for it’s art.

So far, I’ve met with Michael Frey, the incredibly dedicated and passionate director of the Edina Art Center (numerous times, bless him!); Scott Neal, the hard-working city manager and Karen Kurt, his engaging assistant city manager; Ann Kattreh, the affable new director of Parks and Rec; her talented team of Susan Faus, assistant director and Amanda Holle, Edinborough Park assistant manager; Ross Bintner, environmental engineer who recently gave me a mini tour of sculptures in the industrial area; Marc Faubert, the interested-in-the arts general manager of Westin Edina Galleria; Lisa Mullerleile, the youthful, energetic general manager of the Residence Inn Marriott; Rachel Thelemann, the delightful executive director of the 50th & France Business Association and Julie Boehm, her capable assistant; Lori Syverson, our winning new Chamber of Commerce executive director; Lisa Kaczke, the ubiquitous Edina Sun Current editor; Jeff Long, the industrious police chief; Molly Anderson, the purposeful crime prevention specialist; Lauren Carpentor, the focused director of marketing and business development for Southdale Simon Properties; Amanda Gahler, photographer extraordinaire who managed to take a very nice photo of me in the current Edina Magazine and three amazingly talented sculpture artists Heidi Hoy, Bruce Stillman and Nick Legeros to name a few.

What’s missing from this illustrious group of our city’s leaders is hearing from every day residents who live and/or work in Edina about what they – YOU – think. Thus, the birth of my idea of a monthly Listen & Learn.

What is of interest and important to you concerning public art in Edina?

We know you love the sculpture exhibits at Grandview Square Park, 50th & France and the Promenade. What else would you like to see and experience pertaining to art in Edina?

EPAC is in the very early stages of working with the city to wrap 13 city-owned utility boxes with art. What would you like to see on them: flowers, food, paintings, children’s art, photographs, a mix? Would you like to see poems written in the sidewalks like they have in St. Paul? How about taking a page out of numerous European cities and creating a large checker/chess set under a bridge at Centennial Lakes? Would decorative bus or park benches put a smile on your face? Would artistic lighting enhance our community? How do you feel about murals livening up the sides of some parking ramps? What ideas do you have for public art in the Edinborough Park Grotto?

While I don’t have everything figured out yet about Listen & Learn, I’m intending that together, we will make it happen and successful.

Placemaking, the topic for the meeting with the St. Paul non-profit Forecast Public Art, which had me come up with the Listen & Learn idea in the first place, is a relatively new buzz work in the arts community. Its definition is “the act of people coming together to change overlooked and undervalued public and shared spaces into welcoming places where community gathers, supports one another and thrives,” according to Springboard for the Arts, a St. Paul non-profit for and by artists.

Listen & Learn will occur in random places wherever I will be allowed. Look for the Listen & Learn sign (yet to be created!) at supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, park benches, parking lots, the Galleria, Southdale, Centennial Lakes, Edinborough Park, Yorktown, The Promenade, Grandview Square, 50th & France and anywhere else that I can engage in a conversation with the people of Edina.

I’ll be taking notes or may ask you to jot down your suggestions in a special book to capture those ideas.

The first Listen & Learn public art conversation will be Tuesday, Feb. 26th from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Edinborough Park, 7700 York Ave. S., in the lower level Grotto. There’s plenty of free parking. I really hope you’ll stop by.

All you have to do is to show up and share your thoughts. I promise an engaging conversation.

EDINA: Every Day I Need Art!

Let’s talk!