Home is where the art is: Extreme Home Makeover on the Central Corridor

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For Lucy Whitley Mott, 10, home is “where I have a roof over my head.”

For Julie GebbenGreen, 47, home is less location-specific and more “sacred.”

Whitley Mott and GebbenGreen traced projected images of the spaces they think of as “home” onto green canvases at a community art project on February 11. They met at the Hamline Midway Library as part of Artify’s THIS IS HOME community art project.

Their work is currently on display on the 1300 block of University Avenue at the future location of a Project for Pride in Living (PPL) affordable housing development.

Witt Siasoco, who runs the THIS IS HOME project with fellow Minneapolis-based artist, Mischa Kegan, was inspired by Artify’s theme of “Home is…” and his previous work with teens at Project Offstreets, a homeless-drop in shelter. “I had been working there for a year trying to figure out a project that would really speak to them,” he said. “And I came up with an idea about them talking about places they’ve lived and places that have felt safe to them.”

Siasoco said that the THIS IS HOME project is similar to his work at Project Offstreets because it’s people “talking about where they’re from, and what feels like home to them.”

All of the 22 participants are residents of the Hamline-Midway or Frogtown-Rondo neighborhoods. Most drew houses or architectural structures, like Whitley Mott, who traced an image of her father’s house, but others had different ideas about their homes.

GebbenGreen, a pastor and chair of the library association for the Hamline Midway branch, has lived in many places throughout the country. “It wasn’t until I lived on the West Coast that for the first time I had a sense of what home was for me,” she said. “It was not a building, but rather a sense that I landed in a place where my internal geography matched the outer geography.”

Instead of drawing a building where she had lived, GebbenGreen traced what she considers home, which is “the Sacred.” She used an image from a mural on the Women’s Building in San Francisco of a woman emerging from water, which is one of the ways she images sacredness.

The year-long Artify Hamline Station project is supported by Irrigate, an artist-led placemaking initiative that focuses on changing the landscape of the Central Corridor Light Rail line during construction. Hamline Station is the name of the Project for Pride in Living development that will be built on this site. Irrigate is the result of a partnership between the City of Saint Paul, Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and Springboard for the Arts.

According to Oskar Ly, an artist organizer for Irrigate, art projects at the Hamline Station have helped enliven the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, which has been disrupted by the construction of the Green Line. Hamline Station is located at the former home of the Midway Chevrolet. According to a Pioneer Press article, before it closed in 2007, Midway Chevrolet was the last major new car dealer on University Avenue.

“Neighbors have been able to see the transformation of the site from what some have called ‘an eyesore,’ or just this vacant space, where people were afraid of vandalism,” said Ly. “Having the arts there is giving a stronger sense of community.”

The THIS IS HOME project is just one of many that Artify will display at Hamline Station until demolition and construction begin in Spring 2014. Currently, there are four art installations in place at Hamline station: THIS IS HOME; a mural painted during Saint Paul Open Streets, which features brightly colored doors and the words, “Home is Hamline-Midway;” a project consisting of 108 house silhouettes that represent the location’s 108 future affordable housing units; and house-shaped frames packed with snow to show the impermanence of home.

On Saturday March 1 from 1-5 p.m., these installations and several more, including knitting art, and images of the neighborhood, will be on public display at 1333 University Avenue West, at the corner of Hamline and University. At this event, residents will be able to discuss the artwork with the artists. A program will feature local poets expressing their ideas about affordable housing. For more information on this event, see Artify’s WordPress Page.

After demolition, construction of the new PPL development, which will consist of affordable housing for families and young working professionals, along with commercial spaces and a public plaza, will begin, according to Ly.

This is one of a number of articles produced by students at Macalester as part of a New Media class.


Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.