You can see some of the poetry on our tour when you walk down the stretch of Lafond Ave between Grotto and Saint Albans. (odd number side of the block)
To see a map of all Sidewalk Poetry Locations, click here:
An interview with Marcus Young:
Could you tell me a little about the origins of Sidewalk Poetry? What inspired it? How did it come to be?
Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk started in 2008 because a rectangle of concrete sidewalk to me looked like a blank sheet of paper, an opportunity waiting for new imagination. If one rectangle was a sheet of paper, then a street was a chapter, and an entire city was a big book. Why did we live in a big blank book? Wasn't it time we wrote in that big book?
Christine Podas-Larson, the founder of Public Art Saint Paul, had the big idea to start an artist residency program within the city, and worked with Public Works to make it happen. It was a very novel idea then. I was chosen as the second artist to be in the program, and I had a cubicle in City Hall Annex. My cubicle was right next to the city's sidewalk inspector, so it was natural for me to dream of making a work of art that transformed the annual city sidewalk repair program into a work of publishing poetry. I think it's great that our City is trying to pave its streets with poetry! I think there must be well more than 1000 poems installed by now. Many other cities have copied our work.
What feels exciting to you about these public art pieces?
Sidewalk Poetry is an example we can change the city from the inside out. It's proof that even standard systems can be re-imagined to be more useful and more meaningful. By not assuming that a sidewalk is just a sidewalk but a place for human expression we can give more voice to more people.
How does the presence of poetry impact/reflect the communities it's in?
I have heard about weddings using the poems in their neighborhood as part of their backyard ceremony. I have heard about grandparents taking walks with grandchildren looking for poems to read together. Art is not separate from life, and here is an example where the art lives very close to you, in an everyday way. All the poems are by St. Paul residents. We read each other's poetry. We speak to each other. We feel how this place has room for everyone.
Marcus Young 楊墨 makes art to expand the repertoire of human behavior and the expressivity of social forms. From 2006 to 2015, he served as City Artist in St. Paul, MN, where he transformed the city’s sidewalk repair program into a publishing entity for poetry, an ongoing project called Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk. Since 2008, he has been creating Don’t You Feel It Too?—a participatory street dance practice of social and inner-life liberation. He is a recipient of awards from the McKnight, Bush, and Jerome Foundations. Marcus is currently Collaborating Director with Ananya Dance Theater, Lead Faculty and Program Director at HECUA's Art for Social Change, and artist-in-residence at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. www.DYFIT.org