Messages from the Council Chair

Artists bring a fresh lens to policymaking

June 2024

Brightly colored bus shows monarch butterflies and a young woman in a hijab with a butterfly on her hand.When has a piece of visual art or a performance lifted you out of the doldrums, ushered you into a joyous or transcendent state, or challenged you to understand someone else’s perspective—to see a situation in a new way? 

That’s the power of art, and here at the Met Council we are employing that power to help people engage with policymaking about water, transportation, housing, climate change, and other topics central to our region’s shared future.  

This summer we are rolling out a draft of Imagine 2050, the next regional development guide. We’ve already engaged with hundreds of residents, technical experts, local government officials, and business leaders as we explored and drafted our regional vision, values, and goals, and our foundational policies to maintain and strengthen the vitality of our region. 

Now we want to bring more people into the project of imagining our shared future. We’ve contracted with 14 artists – 4 visual artists and 9 community engagement artists who work in a variety of media – to create new, impactful artwork to celebrate Imagine 2050’s values and goals and invite public participation.   

The four visual artists have created designs that will appear on Metro Transit buses and trains starting in July. The nine engagement artists will be interpreting Imagine 2050 in their chosen medium at special events in late summer and fall and inviting the public to participate and share their ideas. 

I’m excited about this project, because I know it can bear great fruit. When I was commissioner at MnDOT, we hired one of the first Department of Transportation artists-in-residence in the nation. He helped us to look at highway infrastructure and the areas around our construction sites differently. One of the results was the co-creation of new public space under the elevated 4th Street ramp connecting downtown with I-94 in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis. Now it is an activated, energetic amenity! 

Artists have a distinct way of seeing the world that will add a fresh dimension to our regional planning efforts. Their perspective helps us to reimagine public space and create solutions to seemingly intractable problems in lifegiving, soul-feeding ways. They can bring joy and play into policymaking. Stay tuned for a schedule of where the artists will appear and how you can get involved.