After spending a few days surrounded by others who do what we do in the field of public art, the UrbanArt blog is going to share with you some of the things that were said and lessons that were learned, starting with the very first session titled, "Ante Up, Do the Rules of the 'Game' Determine the Outcome."
Here are a few questions and answers by the participants of this discussion: Ralph Helmick, Artist; Janet Kagan, Principal, Percent for Art Collaborative; Mary Lucking, Artist; Pasha Rafat, Artist and Professor of Art, UNLV; Norie Sato, Artist; Ruri Yampolsky, Director of Public Art, Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs
1. What are the conditions and circumstances in which you produce your best work?
Ralph Helmick: Clarity about the project and knowing the parameters that surround the project. Acknowledgment of the administrative component - knowing ahead of time that you are responsible for things such as engineering, insurance, etc.
2. What gets in your way?
Mary Lucking: She likes to have a strong organization that knows art and will tell her if she's going down the wrong path, and will also follow her through the project, through development, and will help her in the process.
3. How do you help artists make the best art they can make?
Ruri Yampolsky: She believes in clarity from the beginning - from the call-to-artists. They state from the beginning who the artists will be working with and are clear on when things are due.
4. How do you balance the artist's flexibility with community needs?
Ruri Yampolsky: They have a public art advisory committee (similar to UrbanArt's Public Art Oversight Committee) who they discuss the project with in advance, in addition to working closely with the department that the project is connected with and meeting with the community about their expectations.
5. Which type of call-to-artists do you prefer?
Ralph Helmick: He likes it when he is called directly (to which all of the project managers in the room gave a hearty chuckle). But seriously, he does like when a small group of artists, from 6 to 8, is called directly to be interviewed, based on their previous work and the scope of the project. He said that the artist has to give up a bit of ego during the artist selection process, but at the same time acknowledges that artists don't want to have to give up too much of their ego during the process. He stated that artists need to be "aesthetically generous" with the community - to engage visually curious people who have not had extensive art training.
6. How do you handle the different types of calls-to-artists?
Mary Lucking: She likes having the options of different public art projects to choose from, but does not like it as much as she used to because of the time and energy that goes into putting together proposals for different types of projects. She now concentrates on both large-scale projects and smaller, usually temporary projects that she calls "research and development." Because these projects have smaller budgets and a shorter time-frame, they allow her to work more creatively and test out ideas for larger projects.
7. Who is responsible for teaching artists about public art?
Ralph Helmick: Temporary projects are a great way to develop artists and to educate the community about public art. He also stated that art administrators have to be clear about the practical things involved in a public art project. He suggested linking young artists with more experienced artists.
Whew. That was not even half of the notes from that session, but gives a good idea of what was discussed and how much information there was to take in.
Please come back for information from the session "Unfixed: Exploring Temporary Public Projects."