2012 marks my tenth Americans for the Arts Public Art Preconference, six of which I have planned and orchestrated over the years with the help of Public Art Network (PAN) Council members and local hosts.
This year proved to be another shining star, aptly-hosted in the Lone Star state of Texas and San Antonio, a sparkling gem of creative community that rolled out the red carpet for us.
Held at Pearl, Preconference attendees were greeted to hearty breakfast tacos (localvore favorite) and iced coffee, in preparation for the 90 degree-plus predicted temperatures. Newcomers were welcomed to an orientation in Pearl’s Center for Architecture, the American Institute of Architects local chapter office with crisp-geometric interiors offering flexible meeting space (everything on casters) for PAN’s breakout sessions throughout the day.
Attendees trekked across the Pearl campus to the nearby historic Stable, an oval-shaped plan once housing up to 70 horses, today hosting 270 Preconference attendees! Texas hosts, Martha Peters of the Ft. Worth Public Art Program and PAN Council member and Jimmy LeFlore of Public Art San Antonio, led everyone in a rousing welcome.
Representatives of the PAN Council presented a state-of-the-field report highlighting critical issues the Council is addressing including: public art and quality of life, evaluation, and social practices and community engagement.
The 2012 Public Art Year in Review followed with curator presenters, Jean Greer, Daniel Mihalyo and Celia Munoz. The presenters deftly described the 50 selected projects from an applicant pool of 429. Check out this year’s projects on the 2012 Year in Review CD, or reference the project list online.
Themes that emerged from this year’s selections as described by Greer included: environmental interventions; social and political interventions; landmarks and grand gestures; community symbols and narratives; travel transformed; and pedestrian, rail, and air.
Three morning breakout sessions were offered and since I could not be in three places at once, I attended The Third Hand: Digital Tools in an Analog World. Artists, Brad Goldberg, Norie Sato, and Daniel Mayer described the development of large-scale artworks designed at reduced scale through computer-aided design software to on-site installation and the realization of projects at built scale, on-site.
Mayer’s presentation was particularly compelling with his background in art books translated to the grand corridor-scale glass art in a new addition at the Phoenix Airport, opening soon.
Attendees explored the Pearl campus with noontime tours following boxed lunches. This former beer brewery, now adaptive re-use site is still in development with construction crews actively building housing, highlighted its gold LEED rating featuring Texas’ largest solar installation to drought-resistant xeriscaping.
Site-specific artworks included a chandelier of vintage sparkly Pearl beer bottles and brightly-colored yarn bombing projects covering exposed utility pipes—creative interventions of this new San Antonio cultural destination.
A brief presentation by Preconference sponsor, Google’s Leor Stern highlighted new mapping features applicable to public art as well as the new Google Art Project segued to local host Jimmy LeFlore and highlights of the San Antonio public art walking tours scheduled for second day of the Preconference.
The afternoon breakout session on Responding to Crisis through Art was a long-overdue topic for a PAN forum and commenced with Craig Nutt of CERF (Craft Emergency Relief Fund) presenting an overview of how artists and arts organizations can prepare for emergencies.
Mary Len Costa of New Orleans presented post-Katrina artworks both temporary and permanent including the proposed ‘Wave’ an iconic evacuation way-finding project designed by Doug Kornfeld. While natural disaster preparedness was the major topic, terrorist attack response was covered by John Haworth of the National Museum of the American Indian of lower Manhattan. Check out CERF’s website for detailed preparedness tools and resources.
A highlight of all PAN Preconferences is socializing and catching up with friends and colleagues at the PAN Reception hosted by the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center.
Founded by artist Bill Fitzgibbons, Blue Star’s vast gallery space accommodated PAN and local arts guests. A blues trio treated the crowd while margaritas and delicious Tex-Mex cuisine kept coming from the kitchen. Special thanks to Blue Star, Public Art San Antonio, and Guillermo Nicholas for generous reception sponsorship.
PAN Council member and artist Sioux Trujillo, curated the ever-popular evening event, 5 in Five, with 11 artists, presenting five images in five minutes. Year in Review curators, Daniel Mihalyo and Celia Munoz were two of the selected presenters highlighting their own work, as well as reception host and artist, Bill Fitzgibbons from Blue Star.
The 7:30 AM Breakfast Roundtables are a challenge to rise for but always well-attended with topics ranging from Global Issues to The Lowdown Dirty Guide to Public Art. Alternatively, attendees had the option of taking a morning walking tour of downtown public art.
Following, attendees gathered for the presentation of the 2012 PAN Award presented to artist Mel Chin. Always unleashing the unexpected, Chin played acoustic guitar singing a melodic verse as prelude to a visual PANoply of his career capped by the current Fundred Project. Attendees dutifully filled-out a Fundred to contribute to Chin’s accumulating cache.
The Closing Plenary was a coming together of the Public Art and Emerging Leader Preconferences. Presenters Jason Schupbach, director of design of the National Endowment for the Arts, and John Bela of Rebar, were posed questions by moderator Letitia Fernandez Ivins, covering placemaking projects and interweaving the presenters’ career trajectories and leadership in the overlapping fields of art, design, and planning.
If you missed this year’s Preconference start planning for 2013, when we will be hosted in Pittsburgh, June 14–16. Stay tuned for the upcoming Call for Proposals and start thinking about topics you would like to see presented at PAN.
As we wrapped-up the 2012 Preconference, we part with an ever-friendly Texas-twanged, “see y’all next year!”