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Local Group Takes Their Fight for Public Art to Eagan City Council

A letter from the Dakota Center for the Arts urging the council to promote public art at two large commercial developments in Eagan sparked a wider conversation last week.

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One local arts organization wants to see more high-impact public art pieces in the community, and they've asked the Eagan City Council to take up their cause.

Earlier this year, the Dakota Center for the Arts (DCA) sent a letter to council members urging them to include public art in any new commercial development projects in the city—including two large redevelopment efforts already underway in Eagan's Cedar Grove neighborhood and at the former Lockheed Martin property.

While city staff and council members were reluctant to make public art a requirement for developers currently pursuing projects in the city, the request sparked a larger discussion last week about what city officials can—and should—do to promote the arts.

The city doesn't currently have any comprehensive goals or policies regarding the promotion and placement of public art on public or private property in Eagan. For that reason, council members had more questions than answers during an extensive conversation at a council work session last Tuesday. The work session included a presentation on public by DCA board members Kathy Thompson and Wanda Borman.

"I don’t believe any of us are opposed to it, it’s just figuring what are the things we can do to add to our culture and identity," Eagan City Council member Gary Hansen said during the meeting. "It’s figuring out the process, how we go about this."

Ultimately, councilors asked the Eagan Advisory Parks Commission to research efforts other Minnesota cities made to promote public art. That research may help city officials determine a vision or strategies for the placement of public art in Eagan. Mayor Mike Maguire also suggested that the city inventory pre-existing public art in the city.

"It’s hard to know where you want to get to if we're not saying, 'Well, where are we right now?'" Maguire said.

The public art push has strong community support, according to the Dakota Center for the Arts, which recently partnered with the Eagan Art House to conduct an arts-related community survey.

More than 80 percent of community residents recently surveyed believe that Eagan should foster a stronger public art presence in the community, according to the organization's survey findings.

Public art can enhance community pride, increase livability in Eagan and improve the city's image, DCA advocates argued in their letter to council members.

Building murals, sculptures in gardens or roundabouts and art pieces at bus transit station—and similar public art pieces—could also attract tourists and shoppers to the city, DCA members added.

“We believe that this is ideal timing to address the feedback that we have heard from our community,” DCA Board President Mike Obermueller wrote in a letter to city officials. “We believe it is a pivotal moment to increase the visibility of the arts in our community, engaging local artists and increasing the beauty and economic viability of the city through art with a creative use of resources.”

Kay Erickson November 25, 2012 at 10:08 PM
I hope Eagan does incorporate more art into public spaces. It reminds us of our connectedness, softens the concrete and glass city structures, and evokes emotional responses! My home town of Sioux Falls has sculpture on every street corner downtown. It's another reason I make sure I GO downtown when I visit family there.

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