State Departments of Transportation Artists-in-residence (AiR)
The decades-old concept of integrating art within government has continued to increase in popularity as cities embed artists within their planning, parks, recreation, and transportation departments. Currently being piloted in agencies across the nation, artist-in-residencies (AIR) have proven effective in rethinking design challenges, increasing community buy-in, fostering deeper community engagement, augmenting planning goals, building relationships with traditionally underserved constituents, and improving outdated processes in routine work.
Smart Growth America believes that embedding artists within state DOTs not only helps drive new and creative approaches to achieve their ambitious goals, but we also believe that embedded artists can also benefit from learning how to better engage with the complex processes and projects overseen by state DOTs and therefore producing better and more meaningful work.
SGA responded to this need in 2019, when both the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) launched their inaugural programs, in partnership with Transportation for America (T4A). These residencies were not only the first artist residencies to occur at state departments of transportation, but also the first residencies to occur at any agency at the state level.
Launched as the country’s first-ever artist-in-residence program in a state agency, WSDOT selected the artist team Mary Welcome and Kelly Gregory, who together helped advance the agency’s creative thinking and produced unique tools to support the work of WSDOT’s thousands of staff members and neighbors.
Through countless conversations with their new colleagues, Gregory and Welcome developed several projects to help WSDOT staff bring their full creative selves to work, brainstorm more effectively, and learn more about the complex work their fellow workers are routinely engaged in. Read more about Welcome and Gregory’s work.
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.
Behavioral artist Marcus Young (楊墨) was chosen as the artist-in-residence for the inaugural year of MnDOT’s program. Serving as the Transportation Equity Fellow from 2019 through 2021, Marcus used his artistic practice to advance MnDOT’s Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan (SMTP).
Through visioning sessions with Black and Native elders, and MnDOT staff he helped the agency and community imagine the future of transportation of their state with the intention to create a safe, healthy, more connected, and equitable community. Read Marcus’ story>
In 2022, MnDOT and SGA selected artist Sarah Peterson to serve as MnDOT’s Sustainability and Public Health fellow, the second artist-in-residence position at the agency. Sarah is tasked with developing creative methods to explore the intersections of equity, mobility and health to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing personal vehicle miles driven, in the state of Minnesota.
This program was made possible with support from ArtPlace America, Minnesota DOT, and The McKnight Foundation.