Minnesota Department of Transportation to host a Community Vitality Fellow to advance transportation goals


Minnesota Department of Transportation joins Smart Growth America’s artist-in-residence program, by 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.

A Community Vitality Fellow will spend a year working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to help develop new ways to achieve agency goals through a program created by ArtPlace America and Transportation for America, a program of Smart Growth America. MnDOT will be among the first state transportation agencies in the country to participate in the artist-in-residence program by hosting a Community Vitality Fellowship position.

Applications are now open for artists interested in the year-long Fellowship position, which will be located within the St. Paul Office of MnDOT. See the full call for artists and application.

 Learn more & apply here

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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. In Fergus Falls, MN, artists-in-residence have increased cultural programming to support community development. In Lanesboro, MN, the artists-in-residence have used art as a catalyst for deeper community engagement. In Minneapolis, artists-in-residence have used theatre to help the city’s Regulatory Services Department develop more empathetic policies and better relate to their constituents, while St Paul’s artists-in-residence have worked to make community meetings more creative, fun, and productive.

Several organizations collaborated on the Community Vitality Fellowship position, including Smart Growth America, ArtPlace America, and MnDOT. Transportation for America (T4America) will administer both the funds and the overall program, including providing staff and consulting assistance. The State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) will also provide staff support. Both T4America and SSTI are programs of Smart Growth America. MnDOT will supply in-kind contributions consisting of work space for the selected Fellow and staff time for agency workers to collaborate on the groundbreaking new program.

“Artists can provide fresh approaches and new ways of doing things, interpret complex processes, and provide unique perspectives for existing programs,” said Ben Stone, Smart Growth America’s director of arts & culture. “While a handful of cities have embedded artists in various departments over the years, MnDOT will be the second statewide agency to embark on such a program. We’re excited to be a part of helping Minnesota harness arts and creativity to create better supported and more beloved transportation projects that help accomplish the state’s goals.” Minnesota will join Washington State DOT in our artist-in-residence program by hosting a Community Vitality Fellow.

Why employ a Community Vitality Fellow?

MnDOT is interested in creative ways of engaging communities and bringing in new partners to help solve problems in the delivery of efficient and dependable transportation systems. Transportation infrastructure that reflects the assets and distinct character of communities will enhance economic vitality and community development efforts across the state.

What will the Community Vitality Fellow do?

The Fellowship will run for one year with rotations through MnDOT’s core divisions to gain knowledge on the agency’s operations, priorities, and challenges. The Fellow will then propose process improvements to address MnDOT’s overarching goals while improving community engagement, supporting safe places to walk and bike, and enhancing equity in the planning, building, operations, and maintenance of transportation infrastructure. The Fellow will develop processes and procedures to further evaluate and integrate elements that elevate the unique character of each community within the transportation system.

Cities across the country have engaged fellowships and artists-in-residences to support their efforts. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s artists-in-residence have installed interactive artistic elements to bus shelters, taught storytelling skills to the DOT staff to help them better communicate their projects to the public, and served as a bridge between transportation advocates and DOT staff.

“We are delighted to support the establishment of a Community Vitality Fellowship to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Embedding artists in state government can transform the way transportation challenges are solved,” said Sarah Calderon, ArtPlace America’s Managing Director. “MnDOT will establish a valuable Fellowship model for how artists can contribute toward the planning, creation and utilization of safe, sustainable and integrated multimodal transportation system and share results with state departments of transportation across the county.”

The Fellow will be based in MnDOT’s headquarters in St Paul, but may also work from one of MnDOT’s district offices in greater Minnesota for part of the Fellowship.

CONTACT: Ben Stone, [email protected] / 410.370.3843 and Jessica Oh, [email protected] /651-366-4939.

Equal Opportunity Employment

Equal opportunity and having a diverse staff are fundamental principles at Transportation for America. Employment and promotional opportunities are based upon individual capabilities and qualifications without regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation/preference, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status, or any other protected characteristic as established under law.

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Transportation for America is an alliance of elected, business, and civic leaders from communities across the country, united to ensure that states and the federal government step up to invest in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions—because these are the investments that hold the key to our future economic prosperity. T4America is a program of Smart Growth America. 

The State Smart Transportation Initiative promotes transportation practices that advance environmental sustainability and equitable economic development, while maintaining high standards of governmental efficiency and transparency. It is jointly operated by the University of Wisconsin and Smart Growth America.

ArtPlace America is a ten-year collaboration among a number of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions. We began our work as an organization in 2011, and will finish in 2020. Our mission is to position arts and culture as a core sector of community planning and development.

Minnesota Department of Transportation oversees transportation by all modes, including land, water, air, rail, transit, walking, and bicycling. The agency is responsible for maintaining, building, and operating the state highway system to ensure a safe, accessible, efficient, and reliable transportation system that connects people to destinations and markets throughout the state, regionally, and around the world.

Creative Placemaking