The Arts and Culture Commission launched the Sidewalk Poetry Project in 2011 with support from the Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library, the Streetscape Task Force and the Northfield City Council. Since 2012, the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council has provided grants for the project thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund made possible by the voters of Minnesota. Additional funding has come from the City, The Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library, Northfield Shares, local businesses and individual donations.
A competition is held each February whereby local residents of any age may submit up to two short poems for consideration. Here are the rules for the competition. A jury of civic leaders and literary experts select, through a blind judging process, up to ten poems each year for imprint in the City’s sidewalks. In April, to coincide with National Poetry Month, the poems are published on line and the winners are interviewed and get to read their poems on local KYMN radio. Beginning in May, as soon as weather permits, poems are installed in sidewalks throughout the community. A celebratory Capstone Event is held the third Thursday of August in Northfield’s downtown Bridge Square
In 2011, nine poems were chosen; in 2012, ten; in 2013, eight; in 2014, ten; and in 2015, nine. So far, these 46 winning poems can be found in one hundred and sixty different locations, throughout the historical downtown area and increasingly along safe pathways to schools and in residential neighborhoods.
2016 Winning Poems
2017 Winning Poems
2018 Winning Poems
In 2013, well-known local documentary film maker, Paul Krause, filmed the process from judging, through the installations of the poems, including interviews with winners, to the final celebratory event held in downtown Bridge Square. View Paul Krause's documentary.
In 2012, a printed brochure (PDF) identified the locations of the poems in the downtown area. In 2014 an interactive Map showing all the locations of all the poems was begun. It is brought up to date as new poems are installed.
As a bonus for Northfield residents, anyone wishing to have a poem installed on their own property, the installation stamps of the winning poems are available for use for a nominal fee. Interested persons should contact the Public Works Department at 507-645-3020 for information about using a stamp on private property.