Speaking of Home-St Paul: The Prototype

Arts / Article

By Kirstin Wiegmann, Speaking of Home-St. Paul Speaking of Home-St. Paul, a public art project by Nancy Ann Coyne, has been in development for three years. A Speaking of Home pilot took place in 2008 in Minneapolis.  Based on its success,  the City of Saint Paul expressed an interest in hosting an expanded version of the project.

The final piece will be installed in the Fall of 2012, but in the meantime, Coyne and her project team have navigated the uncharted territory of developing a new piece of public art in a place where no one has installed work before: the skyways of downtown Saint Paul. Most recently, Coyne installed a prototype of the work.   The prototype was developed as a way to test materials and gain approval for future permitting from city officials. Jack Becker, Executive Director of Forecast Public Art, has seen many different approaches to prototyping public art. “For complex projects that require building or engineering,” he states, “it’s common to test designs with scale models or portions of full-scale work.”  In this case, Coyne tested one window frame section of the 58 total windows that will be used in the final project.

Over the last year, Coyne has worked closely with Mike Haug, design director at Larsen Design and Archetype Signmakers to develop the project’s design components and technical specifications. The materials, design and production of the sheer fabric scrims and text panels were carefully considered to work in tandem with the space. Safety considerations had to be taken into account, including fire codes and pedestrian traffic patterns. The design of hardware to support the signage required careful analysis of the structural elements of the bridges and their interior materials. Color selection for branding the project was a critical concern, as the project will be on view for an extended duration.

This is just a snapshot of the complexity inherent in Speaking of Home-St. Paul. Public art takes time. From a project’s conceptualization all the way to its completion, an artist can spend years engaged in research, securing funding, considering aesthetics and cultivating partnerships and community support for the work. The success of the prototype installation signals a green light for moving ahead. Stay tuned for more!