Friday, November 30, 2007

Traffic Mimes and Other Creative Approaches to Civics

I read about Antanas Mockus, the former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia, in the last issue of the Walker's newsletter/calendar. He was featured in a piece about the Brave New Worlds exhibit. And he sounds super-cool. He approached the city's problems in lots of creative and innovative ways, including:
  • Hiring mimes to help control traffic at busy intersections.
  • Distributing penalty cards (like the kind used in football/soccer) to the populace, so citizens could call attention to traffic rule violators.
  • Taking an eco-friendly shower on TV (turning off the water while soaping up), to encourage people to save water.
You can read more about him here:
Academic Turns City into a Social Experiment, by María Cristina Caballero
An excerpt:
"The distribution of knowledge is the key contemporary task," Mockus said. "Knowledge empowers people. If people know the rules, and are sensitized by art, humor, and creativity, they are much more likely to accept change."

What changes would we like to see on West Seventh, and how we can use art and humor to gently encourage those changes along?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The St. Paul Cube, by Andrew Hine published this lovely article about the St. Paul cube, created by Andrew Hine:
St. Paul preservation group offers new twist on 'cubist art', by Marisa Helms

Thanks to Ruth Dantuma of Historic Saint Paul for the link!

Friday, November 16, 2007


November mornings such as this one: chill setting in, the sunlight just wan enough to remind me that even in weather there is mediocrity. There is a charmlessness in the eclectic architectural styles that dominate these neighborhoods--what were people thinking? I admit there are some among us who find a certain fascination in some of the least imaginative dwelling structures. (My friend Tom likes to visit from over in Minneapolis and photograph the most unlikely houses--in those pictures he is able to reveal a strange narrative--kind of an emptiness, actually. If you went to the art show at the state fair, you might've seen one of his "houses." Do check out his website, collection of photographs from all over the world, which he updates daily.) So, yes, at least they (houses)provide cheap shelter but it's as if the dullness of this kind of November morning overwhelmed the men (sorry, it had to be that particular) who came up with the idea. I'm thinking of boxes with a door, asbestos siding, small aluminum framed windows and unadorned concrete front steps. Add to this a cyclone fence around a tiny lawn and a mean yipping dog and you get the idea. The onset of winter lays bare some rather uncomely scenery. The city has been demolishing some of the worst offenders. Now there are holes. What will we fill them with?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

what a world

Hello west 7th artists, writers, music-makers, activists, advocates et al. Creativity is in the air--I'm hopeful that we will be infected with this new spirit as a loosely based collection of west-end dreamers (and subsequent do-ers). I walk and ride through these neighborhoods often and sometimes rue a lack of connectedness to the place. I know the area is a treasure trove of his and her stories. The potential to make our community more livable and lovable lies, I believe, in discovering how we can connect-- art can be a powerful means to bring people together to mine the riches.
Some connecting possibilities:
A multi-generational dance-party
Art displayed in empty storefronts
Public signage that carries one word/thoughtful messages sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods
A youth-based, youth only coffee/art house
A fund for granting smaller art projects/groups throughout the West 7th community
An art tour of, by, and for west-enders
A series of small events - one Thursday eve per month, for example, or Sunday afternoon (a reading, hour of music, a film, demonstration, art activity...)
Okay...gotta go, board meeting -- anyhow, it's your turn.

Claremorris Open Exhibition in Ireland

Sheila D. let us all know about this juried exhibition that takes place in Claremorris, Ireland.
Claremorris Open Exhibition

Could West Seventh host a similar event? It's a nice twist on a traditional art crawl: a juried exhibition that attracts participants from all over the place.

Art Crawls in Seward and on Grand

Paulette let us all know about upcoming art crawls close to home.

Art on Grand proves you don't need to devote a whole weekend to an event. It also shows a nice collaboration between arts and businesses! Check it out if you can, and think about the possibility of organizing this type of event along West Seventh.

Mr. Positive: Carl Bentson

There was an amazing turnout at the West 7th Community Center Saturday night for the world premiere of Mr. Positive: Carl Bentson, a documentary co-directed by Mike Hazard and Emily Rumsey. The documentary celebrates our West Seventh friend and neighbor, Carl Bentson.

Find out more, see the trailer, and order a DVD! Visit the Center for International Education (The CIE) Web site.

West End Garden Tour, Spring 2008

At our West End Arts meeting on November 7th, Kent Petterson talked about the plans for a West End Garden Tour tentatively scheduled for June 21, 2008, a Saturday from 10-4PM. Some suggestions came up about how we might participate:
  • Lending (or commissioning) sculptures to featured gardens.
  • Arranging musical performances in featured gardens.
  • Beautifying random green spaces along West Seventh.
Joe L. has passed along minutes from a Garden Tour planning session, which I'm excerpting here. If you're interested in finding out more, you can contact Kent Petterson at terrace-AT-winternet-DOT-com. Kent owns Terrace Horticulture Books at 503 St. Clair Ave., right here in St. Paul (phone 651-222-5536).

An ad hoc committee of neighbors met at the Fort Road Federation offices on October 24th at 6:30 PM regarding a proposed summer 2008 neighborhood garden tour. Our informal survey that night indicated this tour would be the only community sponsored summer event next year. Our thanks to Betty Moran and the Federation for making their conference room available.

Kent Petterson acted as moderator for this first meeting of the group and will be a contact point in the future. Information will be transmitted via email as much as possible in the future. Please let Kent know at terrace-AT-winternet-DOT-com if you wish to be added to this email list.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Schmidt's Brewery Lofts

Jeff and Craig Cohen, who plan to finalize their purchase of the Schmidt Brewery in April, announced plans to develop the bottling plant into artists lofts last month. We'll get the chance to meet Jeff and Craig at our West End Arts meeting on December 5th. Stay tuned for details!

If you haven't heard the latest news about the brewery, here's an article that appeared in the Star Tribune.

Old Schmidt Brewery will be on tap for artists
Turning part of the bottling house into artist housing could fill a niche and revitalize part of West Seventh Street, developers say.
By Chris Havens, Star Tribune
October 31, 2007

The old Schmidt Brewery, which lies vacant on 15 acres in St. Paul, is often referred to as the heart of the West Seventh Street community.

Developers are hoping artistic creativity will get the blood pumping there again. A deal to turn the 100,000-square-foot bottling house into a place for artists to live and work was announced Wednesday, and proponents of the project say it could be the springboard for more development on the site.

The complex, built mostly in the Romanesque style, has lain dormant since 2004, when the Gopher State Ethanol plant operating there was closed. The brewery's castle-like structures were built between 1900 and 1939. The brewery has always been a symbol of the community, said Council Member Dave Thune. "We want to bring life and liveliness back into the neighborhood," he said.

The development will probably have 90 to 100 units and cost $25 million to $30 million, said Mark Moorhouse of Dominium, a Plymouth-based development firm that's buying the building. Work could start in late 2008, with completion likely in early 2010. "There are lots of arts organizations and creative people around West Seventh, and we're carving out a niche," Moorhouse said.

Called a huge first step
Bill Hosko, who's challenging Thune for the Second Ward City Council seat, said he has supported a mixed-use development at the brewery for years. "At first blush, it sounds like a great idea, but I'd have to see their proposal."

Jeff Cohen of Washington D.C., and his son, Craig, who has lived in St. Paul for a decade, will be the master developers and have a purchase agreement to buy the entire site from BHGDN, the current owners. They plan to close on that deal in April, said Jeff Cohen, who has done residential projects in Maine.

Plans for the rest of the site could include a couple of hundred thousand square feet of retail space and a hotel or condominiums.

Ken Peterson, president of the West Seventh/Fort Road Federation, called the deal a huge first step in the development of the complex. He said artist housing had been among the first things community members talked about. "Artists seem to get very vested in the community," Peterson said. "They like neighborhoods."

'A lot of potential'
And there's not a lot of affordable housing for artists, said Tom Melchior, manager of market research for LarsonAllen, a Minneapolis accounting and consulting firm. Although he said he wasn't familiar with the Schmidt plan, Melchior said the location is excellent. "It's an area of St. Paul with a lot of potential," he said.

Lowertown has a thriving arts community and a few buildings that cater to artists. The Carleton Lofts on University Avenue, also a Dominium project, filled up with renters quickly, creating a waiting list.

"If it's below market price, they'll have a huge demand," said Wendy Holmes, vice president of consulting and resource development with ArtSpace, a national nonprofit developer.

ArtSpace has about 150 rental units of artist live/work space in St. Paul, she said, and there are hundreds of people waiting to get in.

Many artist housing projects are subsidized by low-income tax credits or historic building tax credits. Moorhouse said financing plans and rental rates haven't been worked out yet.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

December 5, 2007 Meeting Announcement

When: First Wednesday of December, December 5, at 7 p.m.
Where: Sokol Hall (above Glockenspiel Restaurant), 383 Michigan St. at West 7th, 2nd floor.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Community Reporter, November 2007

Pick up this month's Community Reporter and check out these articles.
  • Historical Tour of West End Wows Visitors, by Andrew Hine (page 8)
  • Inaugural Meeting of West End Arts, by Alice Lerner (page 9)
Note: The Community Reporter Web site is terribly out-of-date. If anyone is interested in helping maintain this site, contact Maxine McCormick!