Over Heads or Under the Table

Posted by Ashlee Arder On September - 3 - 2014
Ashlee Arder

Ashlee Arder

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 Sweet Tooth for Public Art

Posted by Liesel Fenner On February - 15 - 2013
Liesel Fenner

Liesel Fenner

We had a variety of best practices covered during our annual Public Art Network (PAN) Blog Salon this week.

Let’s wrap it all up with a major thanks to our ‘lucky’ 13 bloggers who shared their experience and lessons-learned of best practices from across the country.

According to Jimmy LeFlore’s post, we can have cake and eat it, too. If only public art were so easy to produce: mix ingredients, stir, set timer for one hour, ding, it’s done!

And cake baking requires partners as Jessica Cusick espoused, for the creation of all public art ‘Takes a Village!’ However, as Jimmy also said, we can’t eat our cake if we don’t if we go to the (best practices) gym.

Other lessons covered this week included:

How Projects Change from Initial Proposal to Final Installation

Posted by Stacy Levy On February - 15 - 2013
Stacy Levy

Stacy Levy

When a public artwork is unveiled, we assume it was planned to look that way from the inception of the project: a straight arrow from proposal to completion. However, this is usually not the case.

Typically, there are a myriad of changes, alterations, trimming, and edits that take place at anytime during design as well as construction phases as a project progresses towards completion. The flexibility to revise the project and respond to proposed changes is the most valuable skill an artist can acquire when seeking to create public art. Changing situations and the resulting alterations are the common currency of public art and artists must accept and expect alterations when agreeing to a public art commission.

I have a solid foundation of built projects that underwent revision and will discuss various lessons-learned from my perspective as an artist at the Public Art Preconference prior to the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in Pittsburgh this June.

At the session, I will be joined by other public art professionals who have worked on teams including: Natalie Plecity, a landscape architect from Pittsburgh, and Cath Brunner, public art director of 4Culture in Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »

Worst Practices in Public Art Project Management

Posted by Lajos Heder On February - 14 - 2013
Lajos Heder

Lajos Heder

As part of the effort to reinvigorate our public art conversations and bring more artists into the discussions, I agreed to enter the fray on best practices in the public art field.

I will bring up some instances when as artists we felt badly-used during project development and see if this can lead to a thoughtful conversation rather than just a bitching session.

I want to preface by saying that in 85% of the more than 40 built projects my partner Mags Harries and I have completed, we have had fair treatment and dedicated support from our project managers and client agencies for which we are very grateful. This is a very good batting average.

I should write a much longer entry singing the praises of our many project manager heroes. My apologies to all the good guys (actually mostly ladies) but hey, conflict makes for better stories and more blog comments. So this is about that other 15%.

What were the factors that caused these projects to go off the rails?

  1. There was confusion about what the client really wanted that did not jive with what the artist proposed to do—a fact revealed late in the process.
  2. The design team was not in agreement. There were personality conflicts within the team before the artist arrived and the other team members did not understand or agree on the artists’ role.  Read the rest of this entry »

Best Practices in Public Art Project Selection

Posted by Lester Burg On February - 13 - 2013
Lester Burg

Lester Burg

One of our most enjoyable tasks as public art administrators is telling an artist they have been chosen for a commission. Getting to that point is a long process, which differs across the country, but our goal is the same—select the best artist for the site and have those involved feel good about the process.

In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) oversees commuter rail and subways. MTA Arts for Transit (AFT) commissions permanent public art when stations are rehabilitated or constructed. Our selection process has worked well over the past 26 years, with 243 completed projects and 50 in process. With hundreds of stations in diverse communities, we have deep experience in the selection process for projects large and small. The process is the same for all.

Artist selection is different from buying widgets and we are fortunate to have internal colleagues who sanction and understand our need for arts professionals to participate in artist selection (MTA is a state agency). Over the years, we have learned to leave little to chance and to tightly organize the panel meetings, so that everyone feels satisfied the process was thorough and fair.

Artists respond to a “Call for Artists” that describes the project and submittal requirements which include digital selections from their portfolio of existing work and their credentials. These are posted at www.mta.info/art and promoted through arts organizations, or in publications for major projects. Most agencies use a similar approach. Read the rest of this entry »

Coming Up For Air: A Pep Talk for the New Year

Posted by Carrie Brown On February - 11 - 2013
Carrie Brown

Carrie Brown

So it is the start of a new year; a time to refresh, refocus and re-energize. The City of Austin Art in Public Places Program recently held a staff retreat where we did just that. In the last two years we have grown from two to seven staff members and with our full team assembled can effectively tackle the work before us.

But there is more to it than just having enough resources to “get it done.” As public art administrators (or as I like to say “jacks-of-all-trades, masters-of-all!”), we also need periodic inspiration and creative endurance. The challenge is finding the time. At our staff retreat, we began the day with Show-and-Tell of our favorite projects and artists and current creative endeavors—and how refreshing it was!

Show-and-tell got me thinking about not only what inspires me, but why, and the importance of spending time figuring it out.

Here are a few things I came up with:

As a person of short stature (my cousin’s daughter once asked if I had “grown all the way” after learning that I was in fact, an adult), I have always been drawn to objects that challenge one’s sense of scale—like the proposal for deer-shaped power lines or a three-story bear. To me, these massive objects are breathtaking and at this large-scale diminish the relevancy of our individual size. Read the rest of this entry »

Liesel Fenner

Liesel Fenner

Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) was formed and evolved in the 1990s when a group of public art administrators sought to establish professional standards for this rapidly-expanding sector at the intersection of art and design.

While the design professions have long-established best practices through their professional associations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA) or American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), PAN has been moving steadily forward articulating guidelines for commissioning agencies and artists alike.

The drafting of these standards comes from volunteers—leaders in the field, in particular past and present PAN Council members leading committees, discussions, and drafting platform statements posted and updated on the PAN website (www.publicartnetwork.org).

For this week’s Blog Salon we invited PAN members—both administrators and artists—who are leading programs or projects that you may not have heard about yet. They discuss everything from the ever-popular topic of conservation to things to consider when de-accessioning work to suspending the rules to allow for public art events. Read the rest of this entry »

Connecting with My Regional Public Art Network

Posted by Karen Bubb On December - 12 - 2012

Attendees listen to one of the excellent speakers during our NowPAC meeting in early November 2012.

One of five regional networks of public art administrators, NowPAC (Northwest Public Art Council) had their annual meeting in Portland, OR, on November 2. Nearly 70 people from four states and two countries attended the one-day session.

We met in an old, renovated building that now serves as headquarters for the hip landscape architecture firm Place Studio. Architectural models, flying brooms (Halloween had just past), and material samples surrounded us as we settled in to look at images, hear from our peers, and re-connect with the tribe.

Kudos to the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) for organizing a great line-up of speakers and for hosting a great after-party at RACC Executive Director Eloise Damrosch’s “tree-house” home.

Presenters shared with us final designs for public art projects, stories of de-accessioning challenges, and new ideas on commissioning best practices.

In roundtable discussions, we covered:

  • the fine lines between being an administrator and a curator
  • changing demographics and how that affects what we commission
  • how to recover from a public art project gone bad  Read the rest of this entry »