Six organizing principles guide this public art planning document for the Greenway. If collectively adhered to, they will support the creation of a unique linear museum of urban living comprising art, artifacts, interpretation, and infrastructure. These principles will also serve to guide the Action Plan addressed in this report.

Public Art Defines Place: From Dark Trench to Public Park...to make the Greenway viable it needs to be made visible...

The Greenway plays a definitional role in the landscape. With its unusual east/west orientation it stretches between two major bodies of water in a way that nothing else does within the city. For several decades no one considered the Greenway other than a dark trench, if they considered it at all. 

Now, after several years of noticing, inventorying physical systems, studying, and planning for an alternative transportation corridor that can be made safe, it has come to have a positive place in the city’s imagination. Intelligent landscape architecture and imaginative public art are two main tools that will play a definitional role in cultivating the corridor in physical and meaningful ways from a dark trench to a public park. Public art must be woven into this transformative process. It is not something that can be postponed and “inserted” retroactively.

To make the Greenway viable—to make it a part of everyday life and to raise the consciousness among Minneapolis citizens about the Greenway—it needs to be made visible. No matter what mode of transportation citizens use in, over, or along the Greenway—walking, biking, driving, or public transportation—a connection needs to be engendered to encourage use.

Public Art Makes Connections Greenway connections to the past and among adjacent communities should be encouraged and protected

The Milwaukee Road industrial freight line was built to serve the needs of economic production. It was in service of distributing goods via railroad to markets. Now it is being retooled, remade, renamed. As in the past, the Greenway will serve the needs of the economy, but this time around it will be in the service of distributing new ideas, energy, and recreational and transportation amenities for the people and redevelopment of South Minneapolis. It will be in service of making connections between neighborhoods. Public art is a potent force for enhancing a pedestrian and bicycle-based transportation alternative as well as signaling a new space for economic development and community identification, building, and celebration. Public art can hold the key to making a new form in the landscape that uses the past in resonant ways to bring balance between nature, the Greenway’s industrial past, and what people want and need.

Public Art Connects Moments in time: industrial leftovers for tomorrow's users; the primacy of the past requires an arts approach of less is more

The patina of the past can be retained, imitated, or removed. It is a matter of choice. The railroad was a metropolitan corridor carved by a workforce to serve industrial ends. That history should not be obliterated by removing all evidence of the past. Currently, the Greenway is a special and unique place. It is one of the few places in Minneapolis where one can have a sense of what it must have been like a century ago. It retains a strong character, more rural than urban. The level of existing form and texture created by the railroad track and ties, the embankments, the bridges, the old concrete, is inherently beautiful. The quality of feeling one gets on the Greenway should be preserved. 

Less is more. Decorating or “gooping it up” would be a mistake. Development should be done carefully and be organically tied to its surrounding communities. 

Public art ensures public memory. Public artists can be a resource to make imaginative choices about changes that layer the past and present. Public history and public art can serve as a map of historic places and processes and enable this long “archaeological” site to serve as a “crevice” through which people can see back in time. They can also serve as useful tools for neighborhoods and economic development in the future.

Public Art Engages Imagination: From Depression to Uplift; create opportunities for a wide range of artists

Typically, public art programs look only to visual artists. The Greenway can create opportunities for a wide range of artists. Literary artists should be included in a Greenway public art program in response to the burgeoning literary community in Minneapolis. Performance artists should also be engaged since special events will be programmed on an ongoing basis. Small as well as large-scale projects should be undertaken to maximize the skills of area artists and provide training to artists who have yet to be involved in public art.

Public Art Builds Community: Diverse Groups and Needs Don’t Imply DivisivenessÉcreate opportunities for a wide range of public interaction

Public art can celebrate the achievements and identities of distinct group histories, cultures, and experiences. It can also express commonalities over time that attracted many different groups to the area. When both distinctiveness and commonality can be knit together, public art can contribute to making healthy, durable, resilient, fair, and prosperous communities.To feel connected, residents must be included in realizing the public art program, from planning through implementation. Community members should serve as members of the advisory body that oversees the public art program and on each of the panels organized for artist selection. Greenway artists should engage residents in developing and sometimes creating the commissioned artwork. As this venue is quasi-private ­ literally right in the back yard of residents and businesses ­ implementation of the program should be done in a sensitive manner. Involve home and business owners. Avoid projects that involve sound (except when in relatively isolated locations) or other potentially aggravating elements.

Public Art Brings out the Rhythm of the Rail: Everybody Likes a Journey

Anne Whiston Spirn notes in The Language of Landscape, “Paths, boundaries, and gateways are conditions, not things. Paths are places of movement, boundaries are limits to movement, gateways are places of passage and exchange. Once a process ceases, space becomes a shell of past practices.” The Greenway is a place where people are going on a journey. Public artists can use the rhythm of the rails to punctuate the trip, to provide a repetitive refrain. Public artists can use the form, the line of the rails, to keep the journey going. They can make public art that is evidence of our aspirations to make the Greenway a special place, a public realm that says we’re special.