This course had its origins in a graduate assignment I had back in the early 1990s. My intimidating professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design provided only two requirements for our final paper: 1) that it be “interesting to him” and 2) that it be no longer than three pages.
I was relieved that he approved my topic of “how do local public art agencies evaluate their projects,” but was concerned about the page limitations. I needn’t have worried, since after reviewing as many of the agencies as I could in the pre-internet era, I did not find much.
At a presentation on public art in Arlington, VA, nearly 20 years later, a question from the audience made me think about my project again. I imagined that as the public art field had matured, surely there had been efforts to institutionalize some evaluative practices, but when I started making inquiries I realized that this was still a relatively unexplored topic.
Since Angela Adams and Liesel Fenner had both been kind enough to speak in my urban design policy class over the years, I approached them with the idea of conducting a graduate studio that would try to take on this topic. It’s a great testament to their openness to inquiry and commitment to the field that they very actively participated in the studio and contributed many hours and many insights.
Recognizing the complexity of the topic and the limitations of the three-month semester, and not having any idea about what we would find, we titled the course, “Exploring Evaluation for Public Art: Arlington County as Laboratory.”
Our 12 students hailed from five different countries and from three different programs (planning, architecture, and landscape architecture). To my delight, two of them were practicing public artists! Read the rest of this entry »