August 23 2012

Listening With Your Eyes, Seeing With Your Ears in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Map of the MPR Sound Point installations.  Image Credit:“Whether we look closely or not, great art in public spaces improves our quality of life in Minneapolis every day,” said Mayor R.T. Rybak of the Minnesota Public Radio’s Sound Point project launched in 2011.  Sound Point is an engagement of people and art, a dialogue between artist and viewer, and a multimedia experience inspired by wayfinding and placemaking.

The Sound Point project utilizes an audio cell phone tour of public art in the Twin Cities to encourage people to hear from the artists and reflect on what they see. Signs near 13 installations provide QR codes and phone numbers that viewers can call to hear short musings on the art by the designers themselves.  At the end of the call, listeners are invited to leave their own impressions of the artwork.

The artists often speak about being personally inspired by the site and of their experiences working with the communities. Blossoms of Hope, a bus shelter with massive steel flowers, was named after a tornado touched down nearby and devastated the neighborhood.  The bus shelter became an inspiration to the community as it began to rebuild.  Another piece, Kuulo, is inspired by the historic and present use of its location.  Formerly a hippie gathering place and now a neighborhood populated by Somali immigrants, the installation references the beads that are associated with both subcultures.  The Sound Point recording of the artist can be heard translated to Somali so that local residents can hear about the artwork in their own language.MPR Sound Point on a smart phone. Image Credit:

Sound Point has also produced Sonic Architecture as an audio engagement with specific sites throughout the metro area.  The same cell phone application allows listeners to hear vocal performances by Cantus, a local choral group.  These performances are recorded in significant landscapes such as the historic Wabasha Caves in St. Paul, which have seen myriad uses since the 1840′s, and in James Turrell’s Sky Pesher, at the Walker Art Center.

This dialogue between artist and viewer is made possible through emerging technology and is inspired by site-specific design. How might this type of interaction occur in your community?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Matthew Traucht

Matthew Traucht graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.A. in cultural anthropology and is now pursuing his Master of Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design. Inspired by the work he was doing as an archaeologist in New Mexico where he studied prehistoric lifeways and preindustrial agricultural techniques; Matthew established an organic farm business. Eventually this led him to join the US Peace Corps where he served as a Natural Resources Volunteer in The Gambia from 2007-2009. For the last five years he has been blogging about some of his observations about the interactions between nature and culture, most recently on Desire Lines. Now, as a graduate student, Matthew is interested in sustainable communities, brownfield remediation, and historic cultural landscape preservation.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 at 7:52 pm and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environmental Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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