City of Hopkins enlivens its streets with Forecast’s help

The Artery is a three block street connecting the City of Hopkins’ Mainstreet with the future LRT station on Excelsior Blvd. Forecast Public Art was hired to help plan a programmable streetscape with custom designed amenities.

 

Hopkins Minnesota was established in 1893 as a center of commerce and industry. It continued to grow around a central downtown, shaped by all modes of transportation. Art has played a large part in the city’s forward-thinking leadership. In the late 1990s, City leaders saw and acted upon an opportunity to build a center for art in Downtown Hopkins, moving the city’s image toward a vision of arts and entertainment. Continued support for the arts, and an appreciation of what art and artists can do for a community, led to an infusion of art outside the walls of the Hopkins Center for the Arts and into the streets. By 2008, planning for Metropolitan Council’s Green Line Extension established a Light Rail Transit station on Excelsior Boulevard, two blocks south of Hopkins’ historic Main Street.

The challenge this posed to City leaders was how to bring transit riders into downtown, and how to best connect Hopkins residents and employees to the Downtown Hopkins light rail station. Making the street experience seductive for pedestrians became the goal. Art was the primary way the street would evolve into a vibrant place, in addition to a separated bikeway connecting two regional trails, and redevelopment of the sites along the corridor into higher density transit-oriented development. City planners discussed using art to communicate Hopkins’ story, adding interest to the street and making a statement about the influence of art in the community. The name of the new street, the Artery, aimed to emphasize both the importance of art and the importance of the route.

The city tapped Forecast Public Art to bring expertise to the process of developing plans that would set the stage for art in many forms. A focus group of artists informed the corridor design, advocating for more flexibility and less programmed use of the space. They recommended fewer fixed features and more space for art to organically happen. The artists advised city planners to experiment with temporary installations and allow for the artists who use the space to inform its direction. Based on this feedback, the design of the Artery includes open areas for temporary installations and performance art, the opportunity to hang their art over the street, access to electricity and places to meet and experience art.

A national call resulted in 100 responses. Proposals were reviewed and artists selected by the City’s public art committee. Along with the commissioned art, several local artists contributed designs—including C.J. Renner, Fawzia Khan, Russ White, and Heather Renaux—which the city used to create screens, add interest and tell Hopkins’ story of rich history and current diversity. Four sculptures were commissioned to serve specific goals: Night and Day by Jason Klimoski, Moline by James Brenner, Dragonfly Wing by Stanton Sears, and Photo Op Bench by Ben Zamora. In addition to site specific design, the sculptures also serve to provide shade and act as a road closure, a photo opportunity and a monument announcing the gateway to the Artery.

Construction of the Artery was completed spring 2018. People are finding a shady spot to have lunch under Night and Day, occasionally, the road has been closed to cars using the Dragonfly Wing, and James Brenner’s Moline is a beacon that sets the tone and aesthetic of the Artery. The city looks forward to performances in the future!