The Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) is the ONLY professional network in the United States dedicated to advance the field and strengthen best practices to help communities create public art. PAN provides information through the PAN listserv, a benefit of membership, on project opportunities job listings, and a question and answer board on all topics related to public art.
The way I think through and solve problems is different. Good, but different, apparently. My contribution to boardroom meetings and planning sessions is either over heads or under the table. What does that mean? It really boils down to whether or not I am in a position to work through each element of an idea and illustrate how the idea attempts to solve the problem at hand, or if I propose an idea using general terms that avoid the mechanics of implementation. Maybe the best way to describe this ever-occurring event is through example.
A little over a year ago I sat in the basement of city hall, eagerly awaiting my turn to propose an idea for how the public art commission that I had recently joined could better engage the community. I suggested providing public art updates and information through various social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. I spent the next 15 minutes describing what a “tweet” was and how the “hashtag” or “pound” symbol could be used to virtually catalog and archive content. That suggestion was over many of my fellow commissioners’ heads. Had I simply suggested that we “explore alternative forms of communication to connect with members of the community,” I might have received a few smiles and nods in agreement and the next person would have been able to proceed with their suggestion. That would have been an under the table approach – a stealthy way of gauging support for a Twitter or Instagram account without having to spend time explaining what they are and how they work. Read the rest of this entry »
My path to becoming an arts administrator is a tad unorthodox. My advanced degree is in social policy analysis and my previous professional experience is that of a public health researcher. In fact, I’m not sure I identify solely as an arts administrator. Or a policy analyst. Or a public health researcher. Instead, the world I inhabit is that of someone passionate about connecting with individuals and communities, in a tangible and meaningful way, to help address the deeply entrenched health-related challenges they face every day. Threaded throughout my winding journey to the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is a core belief that we all live within a layered reality – one defined by our individual traits and behavior, our social relationships to friends, family, and neighbors, our living and working conditions including the physical environment around us, and the economic, political, and social policies and systems that impact us locally, nationally, and globally. The ecosystem in which we all interact and navigate is complex and impacts our health in very real ways. The extent to which each layer of our reality hinders and supports us as we strive for well-being varies for each of us. Read the rest of this entry »
What central ideas are today’s emerging public art leaders organizing around? What accomplishments will last, and how are we working collectively to better our field?
Every field has some organizing ideas or principles, and public art is no exception. From the outset of posing these questions, however, it must be said that relative newcomers to the field, like me, have benefitted enormously from the achievements of earlier leaders. Beginning with the widespread adoption of percent for art policies and ordinances at the local, state and national levels; to the fuller integration of artists and art in the design process; and the growth of public art in transit and private development projects, these successes have made dialogues like this possible. Read the rest of this entry »
My path to a career in public art was not by personal design. I moved to New York City to get discovered as a performer and live the dream I had cultivated since birth (or at least since seeing Jennifer Holliday sing on the Tony Awards.) There were a few steps in that strategic plan that I had not taken into account, like surviving in New York City. I needed a survival job.
As an actor, I found a home with a children’s theater company, and paid my bills as an Executive Assistant. During the week I worked for the Dean of Columbia Business School, where I studied how he dealt with a Board and a staff, while on the weekends I was a beast, a mermaid king, a rocking horse, or a giant.
As the years and survival jobs passed, I began to realize that the arts field was much broader than I had realized. It offered many meaningful opportunities to engage with all types of audiences beyond the stage. Read the rest of this entry »
Nationwide, it is no longer a question of whether or not the field of public art is going to change. It is more appropriate now to ask why the changes are happening and how can we keep up. Many of the changes observed and documented in Norie Sato’s blog from May, Is Public Art Dead?, are happening all over the country, including here in Charlotte. They are happening because we are reaching a point in the development of the field where there are some very specific “shifts” or transitions happening: in leadership, in program priorities, and also in communities themselves.
Leadership shifts are not easy to talk about, but the fact is in some cases the leaders who paved the way for public art for the last 30 – 40 years are retiring or moving on to other opportunities, leaving us with new leadership. This brings both advantages and disadvantages. There will be an experience gap, as new leaders emerging in public art have not experienced first-hand what former leaders have. But they also are approaching the challenges with an innate set of skills in technology and communication that is necessary to keep up in today’s world where information is everywhere. The biggest advantage we have at this point is the impact that these leaders and their work had on legislation, funding, and the general respect of artists and their art. They have laid a foundation that we need respect and take advantage of to move the field forward. Read the rest of this entry »
As Norie Sato asked in her “Is Public Art Dead?” blog back in May, “Public art as we know it […]is getting to be more than 40 years old. Programs are celebrating 30, 40, 50 years of existence. It is no longer a new thought, no longer exciting in its promise, reach and approach…or is it?”
Throughout her blog post she contemplates some of the trends that have been plaguing the field as it has developed over the past half century. This week during the Emerging Leaders in Public Art Administration Blog Salon we will hear from the next generation of public art administrators who are eager to move the field forward in the next evolution of public art as we continue onward into the 21st Century. Read the rest of this entry »
The Nashville PAN Preconference has come and gone, sniff sniff, I miss seeing everyone already. I was thrilled to be able to speak to so many of you and to be with smart, hard working people in the field. The PAN preconference is such a great time to reconnect with old colleagues and meet new people as well as to learn. And so many issues and things to learn just to keep up or to innovate do not fit into the time we had. A special thanks to those who worked so hard for us to organize the conference.
But in the spirit of constructive feedback and reflections back on the precon, I offer the following:
1) The Preconference is TOO short. We had essentially only 1 day. 2 panel session slots do not give us enough time for the various issues that need covering. At least another half day would have allowed us at least another session slot to allow for some more breadth and depth would truly be desirable. The Nashville team worked hard to showcase their city…and maybe we (I) could have spent more time in it, as well. Read the rest of this entry »
In the late 1970s, artists and critics were asking “Is Painting Dead?” In the face of new approaches, media and concepts, the art world was looking at new ways of art making versus the old. It was somewhat of a facetious question, yet there was a lot of truth in it. Public art as we know it, as “government-sponsored” percent programs, is getting to be more than 40 years old. Programs are celebrating 30, 40, 50 years of existence. It is no longer a new thought, no longer exciting in its promise, reach and approach…or is it? I’m not sure I can answer that question yet, but here are a few observations that may signal a trend. Read the rest of this entry »
There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:
“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”
This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:
“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”
With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”
- Which of these would you rank as #1?
- Do you have a #11 to add?
- Tell us in the comments below!
You can download this handy 1-pager here.
1. Arts promote true prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.
2. Arts improve academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music. Read the rest of this entry »
Many municipal public art programs in North America are creating permanent public artworks in response to policy, funding structures, and a variety of other reasons. And yet, there is a recognizable shift towards durational works that focus on experience and process over object-based work. It also seems many of us are reaching capacity—more works entering into the collection and less funds to take care of them all; more time dealing with the vast unknown of conserving new media works; and overloaded staff capacities to manage all parts of the process. Are we at the tipping point where change has to happen before we see implosion? I would argue that we are. I would argue that we need to develop the conversation in our field, nationally and internationally, to have municipal policies, funding, and programs that reflect the need and desire for both shorter and longer-term public art.
And, in tandem, we need to not shy away from why public artworks do not need to, and cannot always, last forever. Discussion is imperative—deaccession is not a bad word.
Temporary: Why it Matters and Why it Works
An excerpt I recently read from the publication Locating the Producers: An End to the Beginning, the Beginning of the End by Paul O’Neill & Claire Doherty , explored the established notion of place-based practice and stated that the book’s aim was to show, through research and case studies, “…that a fundamental shift in thinking about ‘time’ rather than simply the ‘space’ of public art commissioning is required to affect change at the level of policy.” This may be the crux of where our conceptual thinking around public art can be refocused, adjusted, and rethought. Site response and notions of place are important, but we need to also break down words and terms. In my current public art world, we are hearing a lot about community engagement, but what does that mean? What are the real questions being asked; what is the desired outcome; and what are we asking the artist for and why? I think the desire for engagement is about experience and memory. It is about bringing together people and inciting conversation. In many of my favorite temporary projects, the strengths lie in the artist’s freedom to explore risk; unravel issues; and create a platform for meaningful public interaction, participation, and collaboration. Read the rest of this entry »
What is the Porch Light Program?
Does art have the power to heal? The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program thinks it does. Through the Mural Arts Porch Light Program, a partnership with the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), we mine the social power of art to not only address a community’s physical environment but ultimately the community’s health. The program strives to catalyze positive changes in the community, improve the physical environment, create opportunities for social connectedness, develop skills to enhance resilience and recovery, promote community and social inclusion, shed light on challenges faced by those with behavioral health issues, reduce stigma, and encourage empathy. Through participatory public art, we have tackled issues such as trauma, faith and spirituality, homelessness, immigration, war, and community violence.
The Porch Light Program builds a team of artists, service providers, program participants, and other community and city-wide stakeholders to collaborate on a transformative public art project over the course of a year. During that year, artists are embedded within a provider agency and work closely with service recipients, staff, and the surrounding community. Through the weekly workshops, community meetings, and Open Studios, the artists forge meaningful relationships and explore the issues most pressing to the community. After months of dialogue, brainstorming, and art activities, the artists delve into the mural creation process with program participants. The participants help design the mural and then move on to the most exciting phase of the work: painting the mural. At the end of a program year, we celebrate and honor the completed mural at a highly anticipated “Mural Dedication Ceremony.”
Through this collaborative creative process, individuals and communities are not simply beneficiaries of public art or recipients of treatment, but co-creators of the work as they learn new skills, gain knowledge among peers and community members, and play an active role in improving their physical environment. National foundations, health leaders from across the country, and universities are looking at the Porch Light Program closely as an example of progressive public health promotion: the consideration that our physical and social ecosystem impacts our health as much as a visit to the doctor. Read the rest of this entry »
Doug Kornfeld knew he won the gig the moment someone mentioned Mardi Gras. He had just presented to the jury for New Orleans’ public art City-Assisted Evacuation marking project – dubbed “Evacuspots” – with his proposal for 14-foot-high, 850 lb stainless steel stick figures with one arm reached out in the universal sign for “I need a ride!” But what Doug, an artist based in Boston, MA, hadn’t counted on was that his design would have a perfectly iconic Big Easy connection: that of someone gesturing to have beads thrown at them on Mardi Gras.
This festive figure has a serious task, though. It’s part of a new solution for hurricane evacuation developed by the nonprofit philanthropy organization Evacuteer.org in the wake of the 2005 disaster Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 100,000 residents stranded in the city with no means of escape. Through an agreement with the City of New Orleans, Evacuteer.org recruits, trains, and manages evacuation volunteers – dubbed evacuteers – to run a system that is capable of picking up and transporting 30,000 residents to state-run shelters in the event of a necessary evacuation. The system was tested once in September 2008 in advance of Hurricane Gustav. While about 18,000 residents utilized the City-Assisted Evacuation Plan, many residents had little idea of where the pickup points were since they were marked by small, unnoticeable placards with a lot of text. So Robert Fogarty, co-founder and board president of Evacuteer.org, brought up a new idea: what better way to draw attention to the spots than with a public art piece? Read the rest of this entry »
Each year as a highlight of the Public Art Network’s preconference, a panel of jurors presents its selection of exemplary public art projects from the previous year. The 2013 Year in Review jurors were Justine Topfer, Curator, Out of the Box Projects & Project Manager, San Francisco Arts Commission, CA; Norie Sato, Artist, Seattle, WA; and John Carson, Artist and Head of the School of Art, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.From 350 submissions they selected 50 that were completed in 2012.
Since 2000, PAN’s Year in Review uses an open call submission process from which the panel selects up to 50 projects that represent the most compelling works from across the country. This year’s jury prefaced their presentation by explaining that although they had different points of view they agreed on all of the choices and were careful to recuse themselves during the deliberations from those projects where there had conflicts of interest.
In their introduction, the panel explained that this year they noticed an increased number of projects using light and technology, an interesting trend towards multiple or groups of artists working on one project, and the use of different funding sources with an increase in the number of projects initiated and funded by private developers. They also noted that there were fewer land-based projects and that in general it seems that the field is getting broader. Read the rest of this entry »
We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call “Ten Questions with…”, in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.
This time I have turned to Valerie Beaman who currently serves as Private Sector Initiatives Coordinator.
1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less:
Program planner, council wrangler, seeker of speakers and bloggers, herder
2. What do the arts mean to you?
In my family it was an anomaly if you weren’t involved in the arts in some way. We are all a bunch of introverts and eccentrics who’ve managed to stay sane by participating in the arts. My first stage experience was as a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Redlands Bowl at age 3 ½. I still get goose bumps when I hear Mendelssohn’s music for the entrance of the fairies! Experiences like that never leave you. It’s very important to me to that children everywhere have an opportunity to connect with the arts. They’re a lifesaver. Read the rest of this entry »
An installation art museum, a nationally renowned glass studio, and a cartoon museum walk into a bar. Just kidding. Museums and studios do not have legs, and therefore, cannot walk anywhere.
Plenty of cities have great art resources for artists and art enthusiasts alike. When I stumbled into Pittsburgh in 2009, I was amazed by the combination of major arts institutions, niche arts organizations, and scrappy little start-up arts groups; but even more so by how approachable and accessible the Pittsburgh arts community was.
I had a hotbed of arts at my fingertips. By the time I’d been in Pittsburgh for a year, I’d taken two glass blowing classes at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, dragged every out-of-town visitor to the Society for Contemporary Craft, and learned about Gertie the Dinosaur at the ToonSeum.
Now, I certainly didn’t limit myself to the visual arts scene. During my first year I also saw the Pittsburgh Ballet perform twice, checked out the Pittsburgh Symphony, and saw The Mikado performed by CMU’s School of Drama.
As I’ve settled into the city and put down more roots, I still frequent some of my favorite art spots fairly regularly. I have also continued to explore both large and small performance art groups, while keeping my hands busy (and dirty) at many of the public access and cooperative art studios. Read the rest of this entry »