Happy Valentine’s Day!
On this day when we are encouraged to show our appreciation for the people that we love, I also want to talk about the places that we love. I was reminded why I love the atmosphere of Minneapolis last night when I emerged from night class to find my car decorated with candy hearts. This random act of creativity, spontaneity, and kindness from a stranger is representative of the many reasons I choose to live in an urban space.
Moreover, the candy heart incident made me think about the way we show our affection for place. I drove home along the East River Road and could hear the little hearts flying off of my car. With candy hearts as the objects, it was easy for me to imagine that I was showering one of my favorite roadways with love. Which got me thinking about how we, as a community, honor and decorate street space.
When biking down 26th St in Minneapolis earlier this week, I’d noticed there were several public art projects centered on messages of revitalization and community space. In dense urban areas, public art can go a long way towards strengthening neighborhoods by creating gathering spaces, communicating community identity, and celebrating diversity.
Here are a few examples of what I saw:
These are just a few examples of public art found throughout the Twin Cities, and many urban areas across the country. We can call it community renewal, but I prefer to think of the art spaces as ways of honoring our collective street space and acknowledging the character of an area through art.
Again, returning to the theme of love on Valentine’s Day, I’d like to leave you with a segment from one of my favorite essays about place-making. It is from Kathleen Dean Moore’s Pine Island Paradox and is called “What It Means to Love a Place.”
What does it mean to love a person? What does it mean to love a place? Before long, I discover I’ve made two copies of the same list. To love – a person and a place – means at least this:
Number One: To want to be near it, physically.
Number Two: To want to know everything about it – its story, its moods, what it looks like by moonlight.
Number Three: To rejoice in the fact of it.
Number Four: To fear its loss, and grieve for its injuries.
Number Five: To protect it – fiercely, mindlessly, futilely, and maybe tragically, but to be helpless to do otherwise.
Six: To be transformed in its presence – lifted, lighter on your feet, transparent, open to everything beautiful and new.
Seven: To want to be joined with it, taken in by it, lost in it.
Number Eight: To want the best for it.
Number Nine: Desperately.
I know there’s something important missing from my list, but I’m struggling to put it into words. Loving isn’t just a state of being, it’s a way of acting in the world. Love isn’t a sort of bliss, it’s a kind of work. To love a person is to act lovingly toward him, to make his needs my own. To love a place is to care for it, to keep it healthy, to attend to its needs. Obligation grows from love. It is the natural shape of caring.
Number ten, I write in my notebook: To love a person or a place is to take responsibility for its well-being.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone –see you on the road!
"Number Five: To protect it – fiercely, mindlessly, futilely, and maybe tragically, but to be helpless to do otherwise."
This reminded me of the NIMBY reaction in Linden Hills to the proposed Linden Corner development. "Fierce" and "mindless" are particularly apt; time will tell wether or not "futile" applies. The challenge for developers and smart growth advocates is to engage people in a way that elicits a "Number Eight" response: "To want the best for it" rather than Number 5.
I LOVE street art. I was just reading a book about it this morning, by Francesa Gavin, and she describes it like this:
“these little anonymous interventions are not profit-based. nor do they appear to be publicizing the artist. instead, they merely change the way people experience city life.” (Gavin 6)
“the reason why this work is so important culturally is because it forces the public to become aware of and interact with the world around them. … people have to reconnect with the awareness of other people in our fragmented societies. the only place where individuals literally come into contact with each other is outside the bubble of their homes, screens, commodities. the street is the only place where we know something is real – not exaggerated or interpreted. free public interventions rebel against submissive consumption. they are, by definition, forms of subversive protest” (7)
Another great website is here: http://www.streetartutopia.com/?p=2014