Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Public Art Conference in Las Vegas - Part 3

Jaume Plensa

Spanish artist Jaume Plensa presented an overview of his work, including the Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millenium Park.

He said so much and he said it so well I can't really do it justice here - instead I will let some of his artwork speak for itself. (I can tell you that he said either "obsessed" or "obsession" 10 times during his talk.)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Public Art Conference in Las Vegas - Part 2

Unfixed: Exploring Temporary Public Projects

Presenters: Marina Zurkow, Artist; Katie Salen, Artist; Carole Stakenas, Curator and Director, LACE; Kendal Henry, Public Art Consultant, Director of Culture and Economic Development, Newburgh, NY

Marina Zurkow and Katie Salen began by discussing their collaborations on temporary public art projects, most notably Karaoke Ice. This project, which was originally commissioned for ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge, is described on the Karaoke Ice web site as follows:
Imagine an ice cream truck transformed into a mobile karaoke unit, driven by a squirrel cub with a penchant for cheap magic, deployed to spark spontaneous interaction between passersby.
This project brings different aspects of popular culture into play in one mobile unit. Please visit the web site, Karaoke Ice, as my descriptions here cannot do this project justice.

Another interesting presentation was by Kendal Henry about his work with CEC ArtsLink, an international arts organization that supports exchange of artists and cultural managers between the US and Europe, Russia and Eurasia.

Kendal spoke about two of his experiences working in Russia with American and Russian artists and community members. For one project, all of the information he and artist Sheila Levrant de Bretteville had before they arrived was that they would be working with a concrete company. The location for the project was an old water tower in the center of the city. Working with community members, they created abstract imagery together with Russian letters - the letters were the first letter in each word of a poem that had been written for the project, and they were engraved into concrete that replaced the crumbling step at the entrance. For the opening, the poem was filled in with chalk. After the initial temporary project was over, the concrete slab engraved with letters remained, and the history museum created a program for poets to create new poems and fill the letters in on an ongoing, temporary basis.

The artists and cultural managers involved in these projects were all working long-distance and stated how important it is to make local connections. Marina Zurkow and Katie Salen created a temporary project at Fremont Street for the conference, and worked with Russian ice sculptor/artist Anfim Khanikov, obliging them to make connections with other ice sculptors in the area, as well as a nearby hotel with a walk-in freezer.

Both of these projects capture an aspect of what is important in temporary art - reaching out to the community in some way, especially through an element of fun. They stressed that the public at large will be more interested if temporary art is not framed as "capital A art."

Do Not Forget to Apply for City School Projects!!!

Deadline is tomorrow, June 8 at 4:00 pm!

Three new projects with Memphis City Schools:
Douglass High School, Manassas High School, White Station Middle School

Art Enhancement Budgets: $85,000 - $144,500 per school
Artist Eligibility: Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee Artists

Click here for the call-to-artists. And please contact us with any questions.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Public Art Conference in Las Vegas - Part 1

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."