Minneapolis: At the Corner of Arts and Justice

It is true what people say, that art can heal. But what if art can do more than that? Above and beyond that old maxim, a platform for the arts can bring a whole community to the table. The Hennepin Theatre Trust is exploring the intersection of public space, social justice, and local creativity as it works to improve the historic Hennepin Theatre District. Surpassing even the most ambitious examples of creative placemaking, the Hennepin Theatre Trust made a journey from “talking the talk” to truly “walking the walk” of community-building through the arts. Making Hennepin Avenue safer and livelier was not only a question of engaging theatre-goers; it was a matter of actively including the voices of local people experiencing homelessness who rely on Hennepin Avenue to be a safe haven. Through this project, HTT began to lift the curtain on who uses public spaces in West Downtown Minneapolis, and why.

Risks Aren’t Just for Artists (We’re looking to you, Government)

At the end of 18 months of conversation, debate, creation and synthesis, the City of West Hollywood had its cultural plan. Five principles guided The Plan’s recommendations, among them #5: Experimentation. Sharing information from the cultural plan became the opportunity to develop a project new to the City—a data visualization project—in the form of digital media and temporary art installations. Guided by the experience of the City’s Public Art Coordinator Rebecca Ehemann, our call was an open one, requesting qualifications rather than proposals, and providing a fixed commission. Rather than bring on a single artist, we sought out three, ensuring that no stand-alone vision would control the data’s narrative. Artists Maria Lamadrid and Sean Noyce, and artist group YoMeryl were selected. The resulting projects—ArtEverywhereDream Cloud, and The City of Creative Delights—were partnerships between the City and the artists that allowed for new ideas to surface and West Hollywood’s public art to reach new altitudes. 

How to Make a Monument

In the fall of 2017, Mural Arts Philadelphia embarked on our biggest project ever: Monument Lab, a nine-week-long public art and history project challenging Philadelphians to join a citywide conversation about history, memory, and our collective future. Twenty dynamic contemporary artists, selected by curators Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum, created temporary monuments across the city, and four of them were selected as outstanding public art projects by Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Network Year in Review. Because these four artworks stem from the same project, it’s easy to draw lines between them. Monument Lab asked us to consider what a monument is, and who gets a say in history. All of the artists answered this question in different visual ways, but their common qualities are clear. All four pieces make clear what is missing, what has gone untold.

Reflections on a Quarter-Mile Long Public Artwork in Edmonton, Canada

Resonant Progression is a public art commission that was advertised internationally by the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and completed in September 2017. The story of the young city of Edmonton is a very interesting one, and the concept involved an important inspiration in reference to the role that Dr. Terwillegar and Dr. Oleskiw had in the bridging of a path and calling for Ukrainian, Polish, and European people to follow to come and live in Edmonton more than 100 years ago. There could have been portraiture, or narratives about their lives, but the sculptures were presented with the simple but more universally accessible idea that what is needed in our era is places to contemplate our relationship to nature—and that these sculptures could be clearly places to view from as much as look at

Mary Mattingly’s “Everything At Once,” part of Experiments in Public Art

What is a decommissioned military trailer carrying a structure erected of charred wood doing in the parking lot of an industrial area of Boulder, Colorado? Everything At Once utilized these repurposed materials, presented through the realm of an art experience, as means for social conversation, collaboration, and social change. As a foray for conversation around funding priorities and positions within the United States, Mattingly created an environment specifically constructed of a decommissioned military trailer used in Afghanistan and charred wood from a U.S. public school that recently closed in Wisconsin. Everything At Once asks, “Can we process complex histories through the transformation of objects and materials in order to collectively imagine other ways of being in the world?”

Welcome to the 2018 PAN Year in Review Blog Salon!

This year, 49 projects from across the United States and Canada were selected for the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Year in Review. Each year, three jurors review hundreds of applications to highlight up to 50 public art projects that represent the most compelling work for the year. As part of that recognition, we invited the artists and commissioning agencies to submit blogs for this salon, telling us about lessons they learned and giving us a peek at what it takes to develop a successful public art project. This week on ARTSblog, we present you with posts from half a dozen different perspectives, reflecting on anything from the administrative challenges of public art projects, to the artistic thought processes that brought us these amazing works.

Americans for the Arts Partners with the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking to Develop the 2018 National Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit

Monday, August 13, 2018

Americans for the Arts will join NCCP as a Regional Partner to provide input on content; local insight to the Maryland, District of Columbia and Northern Virginia area; marketing support; and funding connections for the upcoming summit Oct. 5-7 in College Park, Maryland. 

A Public Art Passion Project Reaches its Halfway Point

Thursday, July 5, 2018

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On February 20, 2017, a 51-year-old man named Thomas Leeper set off to complete a public art-centric passion project: covering every linear mile of Detroit on bike, while also photographing and geo-tagging every piece of public art or graffiti he encountered along the way. Almost a year and a half later, Leeper is about at the halfway point, having biked through 2,200 of the 4,000 linear miles of the Detroit streets.

Americans for the Arts Recognizes 49 Outstanding Public Art Projects from Around United States

Friday, June 15, 2018

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Americans for the Arts today honored 49 outstanding public arts projects created in 2017 through the Public Art Network Year in Review program, the only national program that specifically recognizes the most compelling public art. Chosen by public art experts, the roster of selected projects was unveiled this morning at Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention in Denver. This is the 17th year that Americans for the Arts has recognized public art works.

The “50 States Initiative” Utilizes Public Art to Bolster Civic Engagement

Artist-run organization plans to mobilize public art to encourage political participation in the U.S.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

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The artist-run American nonprofit For Freedoms has announced the launch of “The 50 State Initiative,” a nonpartisan political and artistic campaign that will utilize public art to spark political engagement. Spanning the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, the campaign’s focal point is the planned installation of political billboards in all 50 states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

Welcoming Travelers to a Community Through the Arts

As the gateway to a city, airports are the first and last place that air travelers experience; they are a doorway for passengers and visitors alike. An airport has a broad range of functions, but its visual impact can run the gamut from a blank canvas to a celebration of sights and sounds. As the canvas on which impressions of a destination can be formed, airports have an opportunity to tell their story through permanent and temporary installations as well as through performing arts. When an airport chooses to introduce travelers to the arts and cultural assets of a region and beyond, wonderful things can happen. Each artistic effort says to travelers that not only do the arts matter, but also that the aesthetics of an airport are important.

Americans for the Arts to Present Six Awards for Arts Leadership

Honorees to Be Recognized June 16 at Americans for the Arts’ Convention in Denver, CO

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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Americans for the Arts announced today the recipients of the 2018 Americans for the Arts Leadership Awards. Given annually, these awards recognize the achievements of individuals and organizations committed to enriching their communities through the arts.

The Business of Public (Art)Work

The discourse of what public art can be is ever expanding. With the accessibility of new creative tools and platforms to present new forms of public art, artists and presenters are pushing existing boundaries and creating new ones for what public art can be and how it is presented. It’s an exciting time for Masary Studios, a team of artists creating one-of-a-kind visual and sound experiences. By unlocking the hidden possibilities of an urban landscape or space, Masary’s works are at once a performance, a dissection of architecture, and an immersive visual spectacle. And while we are artists, we are also business owners. Each piece takes on a different artistic approach, but our business model for project management, technical direction, budgets, and attention is consistent and critical in how we see a vision through to retain a healthy balanced working life. 

Building Capacity for Creative Placemaking

Creative placemaking has been an ongoing discussion in cities and towns across the country for several years, but where do planners sit in this dialogue? What role does a planner have in the development of a creative placemaking strategy? How can planners incorporate creative placemaking ideas into their projects? Or encourage communities to implement these kinds of projects? Americans for the Arts has partnered with the American Planning Association, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Area Planning Council and The Townscape Institute, on a National Endowment for the Arts funded project to develop a suite of curated resources to assist planners in understanding how arts and culture can impact their work. The tools developed in this project will live as a Knowledgebase on APA’s website, accessible to all who are interested in implementing creative placemaking projects.

Maggie and Melvin—Generations of Advocacy

Sitting down for a documentary interview the day before the unveiling of a monument to Maggie L. Walker in Richmond, community leader Melvin Jones Jr. was bubbling with joy in anticipation of seeing a project he had fought so tirelessly for finally come to fruition. A humble man in his early sixties, Jones felt familial to me. Never taking too much credit for accomplishments and always speaking with a smile, he wore his passion on his sleeve for all to see and had an arsenal of Maggie L. Walker wisdom that could supersede any textbook. His energy was contagious and he carried a binder full of documents he had collected. What I assumed would be a nuts and bolts interview about process turned into a conversation around history, legacy, and the diligence of a man who would go from a concerned citizen with an idea to public art proponent over the course of a decade.

“We Can Do It”: Rosie the Riveter and the Power of Public Art

The recent passing of the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter underscores the importance of public art … and the role of women. The real Rosie the Riveter—Naomi Parker Fraley, a waitress in California—lived to be 96. An image of Naomi, hair tied in a polka-dot bandana, became an iconic symbol for unity during World War II and, later, for feminism. After she died January 20, 2018, her lengthy obituary in The New York Times was worthy of rock stars or heads of state. She was overlooked for decades, but when the public learned that Naomi was Rosie the Riveter, she said she wanted neither fame nor fortune.

The Long Journey to a Making a Monument: Maggie L. Walker Public Art Project

Through the public art process and with input from the community, the monument to Maggie Walker would be a reality at last. We’d build on the work of those who came before and follow the path for a project that was long overdue. It would be done by the 150th anniversary of her birth. Easy and uncontroversial, right? However, when I truly reflect, the path to that day was longer and rougher than any of us on the Public Art Site Selection Team anticipated. Many, many times we found ourselves turning to Walker’s quote about determination and perseverance: “Have faith, have hope, have courage and carry on.”

Family and Community: Honoring “Our Inspiration” Maggie L. Walker

I am the great, great-granddaughter of Maggie Walker and am truly honored and humbled to be related to this magnificent woman. She is an important character not only in Richmond history, but also in the history of African Americans and women. I am blessed to be able to tell her story and even more grateful to be able to drive down Broad Street in Richmond and see her standing in her rightful place. Monuments like hers are important in a city like Richmond, where Confederate ghosts loom. By having this public art in the center of the city, it serves to educate people who may not have known her and her contributions to the community.

Creating Community and Connection through Creating Public Art

When I started working on the Maggie Walker project, I had no idea of the magnitude and importance of the project, nor its national significance and impact it would have upon our community. Now when I walk by her statue, I see community members feeling connections to each other and sensing the investment made into this place of memorial created with public art. My own motivations to work in the field of public art stem from the compelling need to create more beauty, joy, and connection in the world. In using the arts to tell our stories, and in the process of working together as a group to make a project happen, we find community connections as beautiful as the pieces of art themselves. 

The Easy Way Is Not Always the Best Way

At Americans for the Arts, we are always looking for stories that demonstrate the transformative power of the arts and how the arts can impact people's lives in positive ways. When I was tasked with creating a video about a statue in Richmond, Virginia, what I had first thought would be a simple project about a public art piece became much more complicated than I had ever imagined. But thank goodness for complications, because I am so grateful to have been able to share the complex story of the monument to Maggie L. Walker, a civil rights pioneer and the first woman to be memorialized as a statue in the city of Richmond. 

Monument to Change

Over the past year, public monuments have been scrutinized and reviewed: What are the roles of these artworks? What relevance do they play in history? In contemporary culture? And, what do they say about the community where they are located? Richmond, Virginia has been looking at their monuments and considering what is missing for quite some time. As Americans for the Arts was looking to enhance the tools we offer to the public art field, the story of a new monument to civil rights activist Maggle L. Walker in Richmond proved to be an ideal subject for a short-form documentary video.

Americans for the Arts Launching Monthly Public Art Showcase on Facebook

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Join us on Facebook the last Tuesday of each month from 1 to 2 p.m. (Eastern Time) for one of our theme-based Public Art Showcase events. These are your opportunity to share the public artworks in your neighborhoods, towns, cities, or wherever!

Documentary Video Tells the Story of a New Public Art Monument in Richmond

“A Monument to Maggie” explores the decades-long community effort to develop a monument honoring civil rights hero Maggie L. Walker

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Monument to Maggie tells the story of the development and unveiling of a monument to civil rights hero Maggie L. Walker, which was unveiled after nearly 20 years of efforts led by community and political leaders to help tell another part of Richmond's history.

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