Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day in the Life of a Public Art Administrator

We routinely get asked what it is we do as public art workers from a variety of individuals, be they students interested in the field, artists curious about the process, or arts interested citizens looking for ways to support the cause. 

So, with that in mind, here is a composite view of a typical 'day in the life'.

7:30a: Arrive at office, turn off alarm, clean office bathrooms, empty desk trash cans into bin in the alley out back, inspect any damage from the night before, such as water leaks from the roof (our building is nearly 100 years old, built in 1915), new termite trails in the brick, sweep soot from the conference room table that falls from the gaps in the ceiling. Make coffee, extra strong.

7:45a: Read Commercial Appeal, Daily News, Memphis Business Journal, Memphis Flyer hard copies, mail, online arts journals such as ArtsJournal, Art News, ArtForum, etc., e-newsletters from Americans from the Arts, Live From Memphis, ArtsMemphis, Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce, etc., etc.

8:15a: Check work email and follow up on correspondence, check office voice mails and make notes for returning calls with relevant information. 

8:35/45a: Check online presence of organization such as company blog, Facebook page, Twitter, and make relevant project call-to-artists updates and other pertinent news of the organization. 

9a: Return any calls that need attention. Dig into paperwork dealing with projects' needs, such as letters to artists or project partners regarding status and progress. Format any organization newsletters, etc. 

10a: Greet interns, get updates on their progress on set tasks, and outline any new 'to do' list items. 

10:20a: Review project reports with Projects Manager, Rodney, and advise on course of action for any pressing issues, such as an artist's invoice being held up for payment with the City, a material fabricator running late on production, aligning construction timelines, reviewing and revising contracts, etc.

11a: Catch up with Office Administrator, Whitney, on her task list, including tracking payment schedules, RFQ distributions, installing Moveable Collection and Direct Purchase artworks in various buildings around town.

11:30a: Lunch with Dad, Board member, or project partner. Or, eat sack lunch from home in the conference room while reviewing online art and design journals such as Art Review, Metropolis, etc, and taking notes.

12:15p: Continue with any new paperwork, write advocacy briefs for supporters' communication with City Council, check office email again and correspond as warranted. 

1p: Talk to City projects' contacts in Parks, Libraries, Engineering, project selection committees members, City Council representatives, or other project related persons regarding any outstanding issues either over the phone from the office, or in person on an out of office visit. 

2p: Draft public art policy recommendations for improvement of the Percent for Art program, project RFQ's, etc. Talk to Board members about ideas for improving how the organization works, either over the phone or in person. Review financial issues and business items with Controller, Candy.

3:30p: Meet with prospective project partners, potential new interns, volunteers, artists with issues, answer questions from journalists calling about public art happenings, etc.

4:30p: Research grant opportunities, potential project sponsors, work on endowment campaign case statement, format fee for service 'brochure' structure, revise vision brief for organization's future success. 

6p: Check email one last time before leaving the office, check company blog and Facebook page for any comments or questions, chart tomorrow's 'to do list'. 

7p: Go home.

[*Note: while this is not 'set in stone' the same way every day, it is pretty typical, Monday-Friday. Weekends, I tend to do some household chores then come into the office around 10a, and stay until about 4p.]

Got questions about how public art works in Memphis or in general? 

Send me a comment to the blog, and I'll do my best to respond in a few days. 

Be well, 

John Weeden, Executive Director, UrbanArt

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

UrbanArt RFQ: Riverwoods School, K-5

UrbanArt and Memphis City Schools is seeking an artist to create enhancements for Riverwoods School,  K-5.

Project Description:

The goal of the project is to use public art to provide an interactive, visual stimulus enhancing students’ reading, writing, computation, thinking, reasoning and problem solving skills; to provide a welcoming and pleasing environment reaffirming the importance of school; and to create a sense of ownership in the school.

It is expected that the art enhancements will be functional elements integral to the buildings. However, free-standing artwork may be appropriate. Example of the site plan for the school can be found below. Artists are encouraged to research the school and to contact the UrbanArt Commission for more information about each school.  Artists may submit a proposal for a specific school or outline a general approach to developing a theme.  The school is in a natural setting, located between a lake and a wooded area.  The Riverwoods Planning committee, has expressed that they would like to 'bring the outside in,' incorporating references to the natural envirionment.

Student involvement in the creation of the artwork is highly encouraged. Projects should include participatory elements, whether it is participation in the visioning or the creation of the artwork or ongoing interaction with the artwork.

Riverwoods School K-5:    $150,000.00
Proposal Deadline:           4:00 pm, June 5th
Artist Eligibility:                 Local    

All professional artists residing in the United States, regardless of race, sex, religion, national origin, or handicap, are invited to submit proposals for this project.  Preference will be given to artists living in the City of Memphis and to graduates of Memphis City Schools. Professional artists may include fine artists, architects, landscape architects and other design professionals provided they are not the project architect or an employee of the project architect. Artists should have experience or demonstrate skills in one or more of the following areas:  working with students; public art projects; collaborating with others towards an artwork/art enhancement; working with community based organizations; and working with committees/boards towards an arts-related goal. It is the policy of the Board of Education to select a diverse group of qualified professional artists that represent a wide variety of artistic styles, media and subject matter to design public artworks that best meet the needs of the students. 

Artists will be selected based on the materials submitted – please see the Application Guidelines below. Selection for this project will be made by a panel made up of representatives of Memphis City Schools, a Community Representative, an Arts Professional, and a Visual Artist. The UAC Project Manager will attend meetings but is not a voting member of the panel. The panel will be looking at the merit of the artists’ work, past experience at completing projects on time and within budget, and appropriateness of the proposed concept for the community.

Though specific concepts are not required, the selection panel would like a general idea of your approach to this project. Please see the questions listed in the guidelines to help you develop your letter of interest. You are welcome to submit drawings, but they should not be larger than 8 ½ x 11 and should not be originals.

Although specific concepts are not required, some level of student participation should be part of the project. Suggestions of student participation include:
•    Working with students directly (workshops) or indirectly (collecting information from the student body) during the design process and/or the fabrication process.
•    Designing an enhancement to be interactive and informative to insure relevance for many generations.

Application Guidelines:

• Typed, one-page letter of interest that explains your general concept including theme and materials.
• A sketch may be included but must be no larger than 8.5 x 11 inches. Artists with no previous experience in public art are encouraged to send some type of visual representation of their concept. Do not send original artwork.
• Resume, not to exceed 2 pages.
• Images of your work – all images should be digital, following these guidelines: Please note that only the first five images may be viewed during the first round of selection.
o Digital only– 4 to 10 digital images. Images must be JPEG format, 1920 pixels maximum
on the longest side, 72 dpi, with compression settings resulting in the best image
quality under 2MB file size. (This is a new policy – please call if you have questions.)
• Image identification sheet
• List of three professional references, including current phone number, and email address.
• Self-addressed, stamped envelope with postage sufficient for the return of your materials. Materials will not be returned without one.

Send applications to:
UrbanArt Commission
Attn: Riverwood
2549 Broad Avenue
Memphis, TN 38112

For more information contact UrbanArt:
Rodney Coleman, Project Coordinator

Commissioning of artists by the UrbanArt Commission and the pursuit of all UrbanArt Commission activities are implemented without preference to racial or ethnic origins, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disability or age. The UrbanArt Commission reserves the right to modify this solicitation and to request additional information or proposals from any or all participating artists.

The UrbanArt Commission reserves the right to accept or reject, at any time prior to the commissioning of a work, any or all proposals when the acceptance, rejection, waiver or advertisement would be in the best interest of the project. In addition, the UrbanArt Commission may solicit proposals from artists not responding to this call and reserves the right to select an artist outside of the pool of artists responding to this call.
The staff of the UrbanArt Commission shall be responsible for all correspondence and communication by and between applicants and members of selection panels. Discussion regarding these projects by and between any applicant and any member of a selection panel outside of regularly scheduled meetings during the selection process may be grounds for the disqualification of the applicant. Such determination shall be in the sole discretion of the UrbanArt Commission.

Note that the wall of the auditorium in front of the stair in the lobby area is of particular interest for some type of enhancement. This wall is approximately 45’ tall and 70’ wide with two doors leading into the auditorium.

The rendering above is of  Colonial Middle School. Note: Riverwoods school is exactly like that of Colonial, with the exception of the wing to the north of the building for the K-1.

Monday, April 19, 2010

UrbanArt Advocacy

Voice Your Support
Every year starting around this time we like to remind our local civic leaders how much UrbanArt does for the enhancement of the public realm in Memphis by asking our neighbors to voice their support for the role of public art plays in making our city a better place to live.

Here is the information you can use to express your support of public art in Memphis in the year to come!

Please take a moment to send a brief note of support to your City Council representative, using the contact information and district map featured in the article box below.

Public Art Projects Mean Jobs for Local People
When projects are produced by local artists, funds allocated to these projects stay local, providing jobs and further strengthens the local economy.

Public artworks produced by local artists help keep the local economy solvent, and further enables Memphis to matriculate as a creative center of world renown. Typically, artists retain 10-15% of project funds for design fees and labor with the remainder going to local businesses supplying materials, design and fabrication services, and to the hiring of production assistants. This means Memphis artists are able to continue to pay their mortgages, meet their city and county tax obligations, and feed and clothe their families while contributing to the greater 'livability' of our city that their art fosters. Although the City's Percent for Art program only requires 60% of its projects be produced by local artists in any 5 year period, UrbanArt has surpassed this mark by coordinating local artists to create 84% of its public art projects, and counting!

UrbanArt functions as a third party project consulting and management provider for a variety of groups including municipal, private development, and community grassroots partners. The organization is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. As a 501c3 non-profit, all proceeds garnered from UrbanArt's grant awarded programs, fee for service projects, and private donations, are folded into the operating and program needs of the organization. There are no shareholders, nor do Board members receive any compensation for their participation.

Public art enhances the city's image as a creative center of world renown and improves the quality of life of our public realm. It serves to further economic development by making more attractive spaces in which residents and visitors prefer to do business, raise families, and enjoy their leisure time activities. Public art is an internationally accepted means of alleviating blight and urban decay by reducing graffiti and other vandalism to public assets. It heightens awareness of our city's rich cultural heritage, as well as builds community engagement between cultures, ethnicities, and generations, making our city a stronger community in the process.

While our city is legendary for its innate creativity that has transformed the world through music, the built environment does not currently reflect the spirit of the city on the surface. When tourists arrive they now find a city beleaguered by overgrown vacant lots and empty, dilapidated buildings. By cultivating a public domain that is visually appealing, Memphis becomes known as a uniquely attractive city to which visitors wish to return, promoting our city as a travel destination internationally.

Talent Recruitment and Retention
Currently, Memphis is attempting to position itself as a world leader in the film, music, biotech and transportation logistics industries. These fields are recruiting highly skilled workers from across the country and around the world. 'Quality of life' is a key factor for such top talent when deciding where to re-locate and raise families, as well as for businesses seeking to start new projects. Public artworks are widely acknowledged as low-cost, high-impact, contributions to increasing this 'quality of life' factor within a city that not only attracts new residents and businesses, but that influences local youth upon graduation of high school and college to decide to seek employment and build careers in their hometown.

Community Building and Civic Pride

By highlighting our city's unique creative impulse and its rich cultural heritage, by alleviating blighted landscapes, and inspiring new visions of what our city might become in the future, public art produces connections to a place that would not occur otherwise.

When people feel the kind of connection and pride of ownership public art produces, they tend to want to take care of their community because it matters to them more than something in which they've had neither say nor participation. They want to make sure that the unique public art landmarks that reflect the character, values, hopes, and dreams of that community are respected.

How It Works: Advocating for Public Art in Memphis

Please take a moment to send a short email or make a brief phone call with the message:

"Thank you for all your work toward making Memphis a better place to live. My name is _____, and I live at ______, and I wanted to share with you my support for the 'Percent for Art' program administered by the UrbanArt Commission."

Then, feel free to reference the information cited in the article box above. If you have experience working as a part of a selection committee, or as an artist producing a public art project, share your personal story.


Bill Morrison: 901-576-6786 /
Assistants: Danielle Spears & Dynisha Clark  
William C. Boyd: 901-576-6786 /
Assistants: Juaness Keplinger
Chairman, Harold B. Collins: 901-576-6786 /
Assistants: Lisa Geater & Ann Turner

Wanda Halbert: 901-576-6786 /
Assistants: Danielle Spears & Dynisha Clark
Jim Strickland: 901-576-6786 /
Assistants: Juaness Keplinger
Edmund Ford, Jr.: 901-576-6786 /
Assistants: Sophia Wordlaw & Sandy Rutherford
Barbara Swearengen Ware: 901-576-6785 /
Assistants: Danielle Spears & Dynisha Clark
Position 1: Joe Brown: 901-274-4724 /
Assistants: Sophia Wordlaw & Sandy Rutherford

Position 2: Janis Fullilove: 901-576-6786 /
Assistants: Sophia Wordlaw & Sandy Rutherford

Position 3: Chairman Myron Lowery: 901-521-4300 /
Assistants: Maria Fuhrman & Pam Cain

Position 1: Kemp Conrad: 901-576-6786 /
Assistants: Maria Fuhrman & Pam Cain

Position 2: Shea Flinn: 901-576-6786 /
Assistants: Maria Fuhrmann & Pam Cain

Position 3: Reid Hedgepeth: 901-576-6786 /
Assistants: Juaness Keplinger

Pam Cain: 576-6793 /
Dynisha Clark: 576-6775 /  
Pat Lewis: 576-6799 /
Maria Fuhrmann: 576-6784 /
Ann Turner: 576-6787 /
Lisa Geater: 576-6783 /
Juaness Keplinger: 576-6797 /  
Sandy Rutherford: 576-6795 /  
Danielle Spears: 576-6785 /  
Sophia Wordlaw: 576-6798 /

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Smallest User needs your artwork to promote energy conservation.
(*NOTE: This is not an UrbanArt commissioned project)

What is The Smallest User?
The Smallest User is an energy saving competition between the Cooper-Young and Evergreen neighborhoods in Memphis. The goal is to see which community can reduce its energy use most in 2010. Competitors are already taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, and we need your help to keep them motivated.
The Smallest User is sponsored by a Strengthening Communities Grant from the Community Foundation and the University of Memphis, Memphis Light, Gas & Water, the University of Memphis Journalism Department, and the leadership of both both Cooper-Young Development Corporation (CYDC) and Evergreen Historic Neighborhood Association (EHDA).
We are looking for artwork of any form that demonstrates this commitment to being The Smallest User.

What is the prize?
The winning designer will be awarded $1,000.

What is the contest and what are the requirements?
Sponsors are holding an art contest to find an original work of art that most exemplifies the spirit of The Smallest User contest and its energy conservation message.
•    Artists are encouraged to use recycled, environmentally friendly, or sustainable materials.
•    The work will be displayed prominently in Cooper-Young or Evergreen based on the leader of the contest starting in August and ending in December.
•    The work must be easy to transport as it may be moved between neighborhoods throughout the year.
•    The submitted work of art will become the property of the associated sponsors.
•    In January 2011, the work of art will be awarded to the winning neighborhood by MLGW representatives for display in that neighborhood.

What are the deadlines?
•    April 30: Deadline for submitting a proposal of the original design. The proposal must include a description and one or more of the following: a drawing, image, model, or computer file (high resolution JPEG, EPS, etc.)
•     June 1: The winning design will be announced on The Smallest User’s Facebook page, its website: (to launch May 1), and via press release.
•    July 30: The winner must complete the work of art and deliver it to the University of Memphis, Journalism Department, Room 300.

Who can enter?
Anyone. We hope to attract local artists, especially those from the Cooper-Young and Evergreen areas. All serious applications are welcome.

Who are our judges?
Theresa Andreuccetti, President of Graffiti Graphics
Bryna Bobick, Assistant Professor of Art Education, University of Memphis
Carissa Hussong, Executive Director of the National Ornamental Metal Museum

How do I apply?
By e-mail:
By mail:
Ashley Akin
University of Memphis
Journalism Department
300 Meeman Journalism Bldg.
3711 Veterans Ave.
Memphis, TN, 38152-3290


Contact Ashley at 678.3669 or

The Smallest User Art Contest
Application Form

Name:  ______________________________________________________________________________________________
E-mail address: ____________________________________________________________________________________
Home Phone: ________________________________ 
Cell Phone: _______________________________________

Title of piece: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Approximate size and weight:
Description (including materials to be used):
Please indicate what aspects of your work of art contribute to the energy conservation message of The Smallest User contest: