Open Call for Artists: Minnesota Department of Transportation seeks Community Vitality Fellow

Minnesota’s Department of Transportation (MnDOT) joins Smart Growth America’s artist-in-residence program by hosting a Community Vitality Fellow to creatively advance the agency’s goals.

A Community Vitality Fellow will spend a year working with MnDOT to help develop new ways to achieve agency goals through a program created by ArtPlace America and Transportation for America, a program of Smart Growth America. MnDOT will be among the first state transportation agencies in the country to participate in the artist-in-residence program by hosting a Community Vitality Fellowship position.

Blending art with transportation planning has long been part of the infrastructure design process, and artists are often involved with this topic and process. Around the globe, in crosswalks, transit stations, airports and more, artists are helping to improve our experience of moving from one place to another. However, it is new for an artist to be embedded full time in a statewide agency.

Recognized as a tool for pioneering innovative and creative solutions, artist-in-residence programs have been piloted across the nation in municipal governmental agencies, including the cities of Los Angeles and Seattle, but never before at a statewide agency. In Fergus Falls, Minnesota, artists-in-residence have increased cultural programming to support community development. In Lanesboro, MN, the artists-in-residence have used art as a catalyst for deeper community engagement. In Minneapolis, artists-in-residence have used theatre to help the city’s Regulatory Services Department staff develop more empathetic policies and better relate to their constituents, while St. Paul’s artists-in-residence have worked to make community meetings more creative, fun, and productive.  St. Paul’s City Artist in Residence program, a 2009 city ordinance, includes artists in the regulations by which the city makes and remakes itself. In that program, artists have a meaningful role in city government and participate in the conception, development, and implementation of all manner of city projects.

Artists can provide fresh approaches and new ways of doing things, interpret complex processes, and provide unique perspectives for existing programs. …We’re excited to be a part of helping Minnesota harness arts and creativity to create better supported and more beloved transportation projects that help accomplish the state’s goals.
—Ben Stone, Smart Growth America’s director of arts & culture



Deadline May 1, 2019



Several organizations collaborated on the Community Vitality Fellowship position, including Smart Growth America, ArtPlace America and MnDOT. Transportation for America (T4A) will administer both the funds and the overall program, including providing staff and consulting assistance. The State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) will also provide staff support. Both T4A and SSTI are programs of Smart Growth America. MnDOT will supply in-kind contributions consisting of work space for the selected Fellow and staff time for agency workers to collaborate on the groundbreaking new program.

Why employ a Community Vitality Fellow?

MnDOT is interested in creative ways of engaging communities and bringing in new partners to help solve problems in the delivery of efficient and dependable transportation systems. Transportation infrastructure that reflects the assets and distinct character of communities will enhance economic vitality and community development efforts across the state.

What will the Community Vitality Fellow do?

The Fellowship will run for one year with rotations through MnDOT’s core divisions to gain knowledge on the agency’s operations, priorities and challenges. The Fellow will then propose process improvements to address MnDOT’s overarching goals while improving community engagement, supporting safe places to walk and bike and enhancing equity in the planning, building, operations and maintenance of transportation infrastructure. The Fellow will develop processes and procedures to further evaluate and integrate elements that elevate the unique character of each community within the transportation system.

Cities across the country have engaged fellowships and artists-in-residences to support their efforts. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s artists-in-residence have installed interactive artistic elements to bus shelters, taught storytelling skills to the DOT staff to help them better communicate their projects to the public, and served as a bridge between transportation advocates and DOT staff.

The Fellow will be based in MnDOT’s headquarters in St Paul, but may also work from one of MnDOT’s district offices in greater Minnesota for part of the Fellowship.


We are delighted to support the establishment of a community vitality fellowship to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Embedding artists in state government can transform the way transportation challenges are solved. MnDOT will establish a valuable Fellowship model for how artists can contribute toward the planning, creation and utilization of safe, sustainable and integrated multimodal transportation system and share results with state departments of transportation across the county.
— Sarah Calderon, ArtPlace America’s Managing Director


Learn more about the intersection of Art and Public Policy; artists and other cultural professionals are going beyond planning and creating art for municipal public art plans, they are contributing to the direction of government at many levels.