Taking poetic license
Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk builds a city with streets paved with poetry. This work of conceptual art re-imagines Saint Paul’s existing sidewalk maintenance program so that the city imprints poetry as it goes about its normal business of replacing broken sidewalks.
In the last three years, the Department of Public Works, in partnership with Public Art Saint Paul, has created 350 installations of its collection of 31 poems submitted by residents. Through the modest medium of concrete sidewalks, the project transforms the city into a public book, creating everyday moments of open-air reading for its residents. The work is ongoing and has as its intention permanently altering the city’s system of sidewalk repair.
The Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk program is inspired by the universal, childish desire to draw a finger through tempting wet cement. The project also has higher-minded aspirations. Our public realm, crowded with commercial and regulatory text, could use more poetry. On our modest sidewalks, we hope to create delightful moments of open-air reading, and make public and common the beauty in our hearts as expressed by our poets. Beautiful poetry can be as present and plain as sidewalk, as grass and sky.
Marcus Young, St. Paul, Minn., artist in residence