Amanda Lovelee ’04 has always been interested in connectivity. As a photography major at the Hartford Art School, she used photography and videography to draw connections between different types of communities. Now, Lovelee serves as city artist for Public Art Saint Paul in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
“Artists are really good at taking something that isn’t visible, and making it visible,” Lovelee says. “I don’t need to be the expert on everything—I can help guide, lead, question, and shape the community.”
As city artist, Lovelee’s goal is to translate residents’ ideas into artworks, fostering an urban environment that everyone wants to enjoy. Prior to being offered the position, her works analyzed the dance-based communities of honey bees, and found similar behaviors within the Twin Cities’ square dancing scene. She then developed her “call and answer” project—a documentary film about square dancing and societal structure.
“I quickly realized that photography and video were just mediums, and that I was interested in the people and the sociology around why people gather and what is community,” Lovelee explains. “It was a moment in the Twin Cities when a lot of interesting social practice work was happening at the [Walker Art Center, a contemporary art center in Minneapolis], and I signed up to do a public square dancing project.”
Creating this type of work challenged Lovelee to become vulnerable and network with members of the community, because her projects were too expansive for a single person to execute. The result catapulted her career in an unexpected direction, doing work for a public office. Her thought process shifted to thinking about how artists function in urban systems.
Now, when people ask Lovelee what she does for a living, she tells them that she “crafts conversation, and builds tools and spaces for gathering.” She believes that the problems facing us in the 21st century must be solved by collaboration among multiple sectors and fields, and that artists are uniquely equipped to lead such endeavors.
Amanda Lovelee, BFA Photography, 2004
“Artists are working in all different forms of corporations and nonprofits,” Lovelee says. “It’s important to be flexible in your vision of success and broad in the kind of impact you want to have.”