Springboard for the Arts has been developing buzz in the creative placemaking world of late. I’ve heard presentations about their work at several conferences this year. At the Americans for the Arts conference in Pittsburgh in June I got to meet Laura Zabel, Springboard’s extremely energetic ED.

Springboard began life as a resource center for individual artists. It has expanded its work to find creative ways to connect artists and communities, thereby supporting healthier communities and more opportunities for artists. You may have heard of their CSA program (Community Supported Art). A current program, Irrigate, applies a fascinating formula:

Community Challenge + Artists = Creative Solutions + Connections for the Future

Here is the program description, taken from the website:

Irrigate is an artist-led creative placemaking initiative spanning the six miles of the Central Corridor Light Rail line in Saint Paul during the years of its construction. This is a unique opportunity that brings together huge infrastructure development, a high concentration of resident artists on both ends of the corridor, a diverse ethnic and cultural mix among the neighborhoods, and a city with a strong track record of artist community engagement. This artist-led community and economic development approach emphasizes cross-sector collaboration with local private and non-profit sectors. By mobilizing artists to engage in their community, Irrigate will change the landscape of the Central Corridor with color, art, surprise, creativity and fun.

Irrigate will:

  • mobilize and train artists who live, work and have a personal investment in the area to make positive physical, economic and social impacts along the corridor.
  • Develop and invest in permanent local resources and infrastructure to retain and attract artists – of all disciplines and experience – to have a long-term stake and role in communities along the corridor.

Irrigate is a partnership between the City of Saint Paul, Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Springboard for the Arts.

One of my personal favorites of the many, many projects is the Big Black Dog (a two-person puppet) that began as a means of aiding/advertising a café in danger of closing because of the street being torn up outside its location. It has now become a mascot for the neighborhood. (It’s also referred to as Prince Java the Mutt.) But then my family has a thing for dogs.

Congrats to Springboard for harnessing the power of the arts (and artists!) to make our cities better places to live and, at the same time, supporting the work of artists.



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