"As Irrigate projects began popping up along the corridor in unexpected ways, the disruption of the many small projects quickly had a surprising impact. The magic of art started a different conversation; something that couldn't have been predicted but was such a blessing. Irrigate's public process engaging artists from the community to support local businesses provided a nimble and creative way to influence the narrative and change the community perceptions of the value of community development. Irrigate's approach taught the public sector that sometimes it's all right to let go of the bureaucratic process to allow for a more organic process of community engagement."
– Nancy Homans, Policy Director, City of Saint Paul
Irrigate: Arts' role in the Green Line project and the construction process
The new light rail line, the Green Line, connecting Minneapolis and Saint Paul would be a powerful economic driver, but officials were determined to learn from past mistakes and ensure that the line itself would reflect and bring together the community.
Specifically, the construction process for the Green Line would be long, and such disruptions could fragment communities and hurt businesses located along the route. In response, the nonprofit Springboard for the Arts proposed the idea of supporting businesses and residents alike during the construction process through artist-led creative placemaking installations in a groundbreaking program known as Irrigate.
The idea behind Irrigate was simple: Any self-identified artist (professional or otherwise) who lived, worked, or had a connection to the six neighborhoods along the line could attend a training workshop and apply for a grant, up to $1,000, to do something creative with a local business, non-profit or other neighborhood group. This could be a temporary activity, such as performances and chalked poetry, or a more permanent installation, such as landscaping and unique art. The idea was to both boost activity in the corridor, and make it easier for community members to have a voice and a space to address opportunities and challenges associated with the change in their communities.
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