Yonder sidewalk breaks City Council tables poetry project

by Carrie Thayer


This summer, along with the typical road construction, parts of the sidewalks in Moorhead’s downtown area will be getting an update. But one feature might be missing, as last Monday the Moorhead City Council tabled a vote on the Sidewalk Art and Poetry Project.

The plan was to imprint pieces of poetry and art into 96 of the refurbished cement slabs. The project is one of the first works to be introduced by the mayor’s Art Advisory Group.

The group was formed to develop new ways of implementing public art into the Moorhead community. This was in response to the Creative MN study, which found that the region Moorhead is a part of benefits from an economic impact of more than $10 million from artistic and cultural sources.

The sidewalk project was inspired by a similar installation in St. Paul, which features more than 470 concrete poems.

Community members attended the council meeting to support the project.

“We have a vibrant community here in Moorhead and I think that this is seldomly reflected in our public spaces,” said resident and teacher Lana Suomala, “So, I think this gives one opportunity for that to happen.”

The poetry featured on the sidewalks was to be selected from submissions made by Moorhead citizens, whether they are permanent residents or college students.

Su Legatt, a member of the Art Advisory Group, feels that public art will help bring the community together.

“These types of projects can strengthen a community, by celebrating our diversity and the talents that we have as a people and sharing that with other people within the community,” Legatt said.

While the council was largely in support of the project overall, they took issue with how the project would be funded.

It has an estimated $14,000 expense, to cover the stamps for the art and poetry. In the current plan, that cost would be covered by Moorhead taxpayers.

But city manager Michael Redlinger said that this would not impact current funds.

“If it’s not something that is spent, it isn’t a surplus; it’s just an expense that does not occur,” Redlinger said.

The Art Advisory Group said that the idea for the project started too late in the grant cycle and they want to take advantage of the already planned sidewalk construction.

Some council members questioned whether the businesses that would be affected by the plan had been able to weigh in on the project, but at least one business owner showed her support.

“Investing in downtown Moorhead, I think can only be good for Moorhead,” said Moorhead Ace Hardware’s Mandy Peterson.

Still, the council would like to see alternate routes for funding and has accordingly tabled the vote for two weeks. Donations are being accepted at gofundme.com/sidewalkart.

The council is scheduled to review the project during their Apr. 27 meeting. The meeting will take place at the Council Chambers, located on the first floor of City Hall at 5 p.m. and is open to Moorhead residents.

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