State Departments of Transportation Artists-in-residence (AiR)

Smart Growth America collaborated with two state departments of transportation (Washington and Minnesota) to create new artist-in-residence programs—the first two of their kind in the country to be housed within state agencies—to bring a creative approach to advancing the agencies’ goals, including improving safety, reducing congestion, promoting economic vitality, supporting multimodal transportation systems, and creating healthier communities.

Recognized as a tool for pioneering innovative and creative solutions, artist-in-residence programs have been piloted across the nation in municipal governmental agencies, including the cities of Los Angeles and Seattle, but never before at a statewide agency.

Washington State

Washington became the first state to embed a full-time artist in a statewide agency. After a national call for artists, WSDOT and SGA selected the artist team of Mary Welcome and Kelly Gregory to serve as artists-in-residence.

Mary Welcome biography
Mary Welcome (Palouse, WA) is a multidisciplinary cultural worker collaborating with complex and often under-represented rural communities. As an artist-activist, her projects are rooted in community engagement and the development of intersectional programming to address hyper-local issues of equity, cultural advocacy, inclusivity, visibility, and imagination. She collaborates with local schools, city councils, civic groups, youth, summer camps, libraries, neighbors, and friends to build cooperative environments that encourage civic engagement, radical education, and community progress. She believes in small towns, long winters, optimists, parades, and talking about feelings.

Kelly Gregory biography
Kelly Gregory is an itinerant social architect based on the Pacific coast. Her practice is rooted in socially-engaged work: affordable housing projects, exhibitions, reimagining spaces of incarceration, democratic public space, and in-depth community-driven research. Her projects fold current communities and future solutions into functional, beautiful spaces for collaboration and engagement.

As a team, with a multi-disciplinary backgrounds in arts, outreach, architecture, and activism, they listen with communities and imagine new solutions in collaboration with neighbors.


In March 2019, the Minnesota Department of Transportation joined Smart Growth America’s artist-in-residence program, hosting a Community Vitality Fellow to creatively meet the agency’s goals of promoting economic vitality, improving safety, supporting multimodal transportation systems, and creating healthier communities.

In July 2019, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) announced that Marcus Young, a behavioral artist, would serve as the artist-in-residence. Marcus is taking a fresh look at MnDOT’s goals, and in January 2021, Young began his second year as MnDOT AiR.

Marcus Young 楊墨 biography
Marcus Young 楊墨 is a behavioral artist making work that challenges paradigms of who is an artist, how to live mindfully, and what is social action. He is currently artist in residence for the Minnesota Department of Transportation; Art for Social Change Program Director at HECUA; and stage director for Ananya Dance Theatre. From 2006 to 2015, he was City Artist in St. Paul, where his project Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk transformed the city’s sidewalk maintenance program into a publishing entity for poetry. He is the founding artist for Don’t You Feel It Too?—an ongoing participatory street dance practice of social healing and inner-life liberation.

This program was made possible with support from ArtPlace America, Minnesota DOT, and The McKnight Foundation.