Placemaking is a Verb

Posted by Penny Balkin Bach On June - 3 - 2015
Penny Balkin Bach

Penny Balkin Bach

On reflection, I think most of us would agree that the term “placemaking” has been conjugated beyond definition. This year’s public art pre-conference is called “Public Art and Placemaking.” In my view, the best public art is inherently placemaking (the verb). Perhaps the pre-conference should instead be called “Public Art IS Placemaking.”

Based on my experience at the Association for Public Art (aPA), formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association, art in public spaces has long been a material attribute of our civic landscape. We know and can cite examples of public art that enhance our environment, transform landscapes, express community values, bring people together, heighten our awareness, or question our assumptions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Intersection of Public Art and Arts Education

Posted by Patricia Walsh On May - 4 - 2015
Jeff Poulin

Jeff Poulin

Patricia Walsh

Patricia Walsh

Across the country, the arts are changing: demographics are shifting, modes of artistic participation are becoming more diverse, and once segmented artistic practices are converging. These changes ring true for both public art and arts education, and over the past year these respective fields have been discussing their convergence.

The Public Art and Arts Education Programs at Americans for the Arts endeavor to explore this intersection, better understand the potential for collaborations, and create tools and resources for encouraging inter-sector cooperation.

As a first step, we have begun to research the shared space. There is an inherent connection between the intrinsic goals of both areas of artistic study and practice. Read the rest of this entry »

Creativity and Impact: Can the Arts and Corporate Philanthropy Coexist?

Posted by Alex Parkinson On April - 30 - 2015
Alex Parkinson

Alex Parkinson

Some people are numbers focused, others are creatives. In business, it is often the metrics and the people behind them that pull the strings and the corporate philanthropy field is following the same path. Social impact is increasingly measured by data and used by corporate funders as the basis for grant-making decisions. This trend has not necessarily been kind to the arts sector, as corporate giving budgets have reshuffled to target organizations and initiatives that can quantify their impact.

Giving in Numbers: 2014 Edition found that total giving to Culture and Arts fell by 20 percent between 2010 and 2013, a result that suggests organizations operating in the field have struggled to successfully capture the metrics and information necessary to demonstrate impact in a way companies can understand. Americans for the Arts is responding to the decline, however, with a shrewd assessment of the place arts has in the corporate philanthropy world—it’s not just about impact that can be supported by data, but about using creativity to broaden conversations and generate support. Read the rest of this entry »

Not Your Average Convention Center

Posted by James Rooney On April - 30 - 2015
James Rooney

James Rooney

When most people think about a convention center, they think of a stark gray, open exhibit hall. It’s true, most meetings facilities are purposefully very empty and plain, allowing for greater flexibility and customization depending on the meeting planners needs and set up. But when we built the BCEC 15 years ago, I wanted to change the perception of the “ugly convention center,” not just by enlisting a world class architect in Raphael Vinoly to create a distinctive exterior design, but by also rethinking the interior, creating warm, bright, and vibrant spaces that were more inviting than the convention center’s meeting planners were used to visiting in the past.

I also knew that I wanted the kind of environment that allowed our guests walking through the doors of our meetings facilities to feel not like they were in any-center-USA, but to know that they were meeting in Massachusetts. I’ve found that the best way to do this, in addition to hiring a diverse staff that is reflective of the communities surrounding our centers, is to tap into the local and prolific arts scene in Massachusetts. Read the rest of this entry »

Art is History of People

Posted by Anna Huntington On March - 18 - 2015
Anna Huntington

Anna Huntington

Confession #1: I had to Google “cognitive development” before I started writing this. I’m an arts administrator, after all, not an educator.

Confession #2: From my perspective, it seems clear that art makes kids smart. To the body of research demonstrating art education’s score-boosting, transferrable-skills, and college-readiness cognitive development superpowers, I say, “Yup.”

Confession #3. I live in Rapid City, South Dakota (not far from Mount Rushmore). Our community, which encompasses nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, has long, deep, painful struggles with racism. Read the rest of this entry »

Nine Lives by Peter Reiquam, Photographer: Benjamin Benschneider

Nine Lives by Peter Reiquam, Photographer: Benjamin Benschneider

What a great week filled with aspirations and reflections from emerging leaders in the public art field!

Thank you to all of our bloggers who made this salon a success by sharing their thoughts and inspiration for their thoughts and inspirations on their careers and the future of the public art field.

Reading these posts throughout the week has given light to some of the great talent that will be guiding the future of public art. We heard from Kati Stegall reflecting on how we can keep up with the changes happening throughout the country and from Meredith Frazier Britt, an up-and-coming city planner who is eager to work with public art (we need more of her!) Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art; a means for human development – The Artist as Social Animator

Posted by Alex White-Mazzarella On September - 6 - 2014
Alex White-Mazzarella

Alex White-Mazzarella

 

It was about six years ago, in 2007, sitting in my small Hong Kong apartment, that I put down ideas for a work practice that would use public art and modern culture as means of developing community and habitat. A practice where the arts would be used not just as an aesthetic to beautify or to activate space, but as productions of communality with the residents of a place and through a process that would open a space for community members to develop and connect. It came from contact with arts in public spaces. Read the rest of this entry »

Cultural Patrimony: Learning to Save Los Angeles’ Mural Legacy

Posted by Felipe Sanchez On September - 6 - 2014
Felipe Sanchez

Felipe Sanchez

By 2008, the world-renowned murals of Los Angeles metaphorically had a nail in their coffin; they had become a faded memory in the consciousness of the city. This amnesia of preserving the cultural patrimony of LA was a social epidemic that I later learned was happening to public art in many cities across the country. Mural after mural along the LA’s freeways and neighborhoods were disappeared and abandoned by the city – scenes so appalling that I set out to find organizations that could shed some light on the issue. Little did I know this small but significant action would set the stage for the next phase of my career in the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Take Me to Tomorrowland

Posted by Jennifer Lieu On September - 5 - 2014
Jennifer Leiu

Jennifer Lieu

I walked away with three things upon finishing my graduate studies in Public Art and Urban Planning: a diploma and two questions. How can I help make art that is more accessible intellectually, emotionally and physically? What are alternative and sustainable income resources for artists to make a living besides selling art in galleries and trying to find work as a tenured art professor? These questions follow me to every informational interview I participate in and panel discussion I attend. I continually think about them.

These questions shaped how I was going to accomplish my goals and led to my interest in public art. I identified that I want to help artists produce artwork that people can relate to, and would be willing to see without feeling like they have to be dragged into a museum. I also want to help connect artists with alternative resources for income and skill growth. When discussing these goals with my peers and mentors, I have been encouraged to learn more about public art. Now that I am working in the field, I find that these goals continuously resonate with me and inform questions about my future in public art. Read the rest of this entry »

158 Years: An NYC Public Art Journey

Posted by Jennifer Lantzas On September - 5 - 2014
Jennifer Lantzas

Jennifer Lantzas

I am a firm believer that you have to understand where you have been to know where you are going—and public art in NYC has changed drastically over the past century and a half. The first sculpture in a New York City park was George Washington by Henry Kirk Brown, which was unveiled in Union Square in 1856. For the next 100 years public artworks were predominantly commemorative or memorial in nature—realistic representations of notable politicians, soldiers, and leaders.

By the 1960s, new ideas about what constituted artwork freed artists to explore new forms of materials and exhibitions. Sculpture grew beyond the constraints of studio and gallery spaces, and people embraced the social and political impact of art. With big sculptures, big ideas, and performance artists’ impromptu “happenings” in the City’s public spaces, it was only natural that visual artists wanted to bring their artwork outdoors. Read the rest of this entry »

Common Field — Where Arts Organizers Convene, Exchange, Vision

Posted by Stehpanie Sherman On September - 5 - 2014
Stephanie Sherman

Stephanie Sherman

Abigail Satinsky

Abigail Satinsky

Arts organizers face a unique set of problems, probably similar to that of a circus ringleader. You need diplomacy, imagination, creativity, flexibility. You also have to be incredibly practical – managing budgets, funders, logistics. You’re often working with volunteers and supporters who need to receive non-economic benefits and feel engaged and excited. Communication is key.

First, what is “the field” we’re talking about? Artist-run spaces, experimental venues, artists creating platforms and opportunities for other artists, and organizations that put supporting artists’ work at the heart and center of their mission. We operate across a wide range of organizing principles – from being a 501(c)3 organization to a co-operative or collective, from long-running institutions to short-term projects – but we all struggle with a similar set of questions. Why is supporting experimental visual art practice important? Who are our audiences and partners? What are our tactics and strategies? What does sustainability look like? How can articulate more broadly the values and impacts emerging from this work? Read the rest of this entry »

Forming a Workers Public Art Practice….

Posted by Barrie Cline On September - 4 - 2014
Barrie Cline

Barrie Cline

Some years back, I was fortunate enough to be asked to develop an arts course for the mainly rank and file construction workers that are required by their union to attend our Labor College. I chose to develop a class on public art seeing it as a vehicle to take up issues around working class studies by initially focusing on the built environment of New York City, thinking that engagement might be sought as my (sometimes reluctant) students were builders of that environment.

The emphasis on NYC’s built environment in Tom Finkelpearl’s text Dialogues in Public Art proved one way to introduce this study, as well as to take up issues of representation and to open up what art can be and whom it can be for. At some point, it became obvious that the class actually should allow for making art, particularly after incorporatingreadings from Larry Shiner’s The Invention of Art which helped us look at the possible re-elevation of the construction tradesperson’s own artisanship, given Shiner’s argument that Fine Art is a relatively recent construct of the west in the eighteenth century. We began to think about work as art, and about making their labor—and the worker—more visible. Read the rest of this entry »

Grassroots Public Art and Political Power

Posted by Cameron Russell On September - 4 - 2014
Cameron Russell

Cameron Russell

It often strikes me that pundits and political scientists are engaged in a very limited discussion about politics. I am bored hearing about the political elite and about the influence of money. I think people that have been considered politically marginalized often illuminate sites of equality and of hope. Their stories of effecting change from the margins are especially relevant as an increasing majority of Americans find themselves marginalized from our political and economic systems.

My first encounter with public art was reading Jack Stewart’s book Graffiti Kings. At its height, during the 1970s, Stewart wrote, “Few urban communities had ever experienced such a rapid and concentrated alteration of their visual environment.” An alteration accomplished largely by 8 to 16 year old Black and Latino boys. Why was the demographic least likely to vote, or engage in organizational work, in control of one of the fastest visual changes of an urban environment? Read the rest of this entry »

The Intersection of Public Art and City Planning

Posted by Meredith Frazier Britt On September - 4 - 2014
Meredith Frazier Britt

Meredith Frazier Britt

I am a city planner who can’t stay away from public art. I just finished my capstone project for my master’s in city and regional planning at Georgia Tech, and true to form, I studied commonalities between public art and planning goals in the Atlanta region.

My interest in public art began with art history in college. I trace it to a flashbulb memory of a beloved professor snapping to a slide of Claes Oldenburg’s imagined (but never constructed) intersection-blocking monument in New York City. I loved that this piece would so fully obstruct the activity of city life, interrupting our regular routes of walking and driving, imposing its message on our thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »

Diving Headfirst into The New Wave of Public Art

Posted by Michelle Laflamme-Childs On September - 3 - 2014
Michelle Laflamme-Childs

Michelle Laflamme-Childs

What do you think of when you hear the words, “public art?” A figurative bronze sculpture of a local hero or historical figure? Perhaps a large, brightly painted, abstract steel sculpture on your local University campus? Maybe even a landscape painting that hangs in the lobby of City Hall behind Plexiglas?

Well, here are some things that might not immediately spring to mind:

  • A “Dance Bomb” by a contemporary Indigenous dance company1,
  • A large, temporary mandala constructed in a town center from the bread and seeds of local residents, washed away hours later by a large rainstorm2,
  • A 50 foot digital dome showing an interactive immersive video project of a ground-breaking temporary installation by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei and a Navajo artist in remote Navajo Country3,
  • A flock of ceramic birds decorated with words and text of controversial histories or personal stories “landing” in a park or parking lot for a day, then disappearing4.

Read the rest of this entry »