Move Well with Communities

When we think of health and wellness, we think about the mind, body and spirit. We imagine wholeness. … Why? Because every day, we have the opportunity to make conscious decisions about what we allow into our bodies. This includes not only what we eat, drink, watch, and listen to, but also our thoughts. To us at heidi duckler dance (HDD), wellness is how we realize our self image, and as artists, it is the overall practice we promote in our daily lives. HDD transforms non-traditional spaces, provides learning opportunities by engaging diverse communities, and promotes the concept that the arts can change our vision of the world and of ourselves. Through working with HDD’s Artistic Director, Heidi Duckler, I have had the pleasure of seeing firsthand the power of utilizing all types of venues while simultaneously using arts from across different disciplines to uncover powerful stories. This process has allowed me to see how I, as an artist and an administrator, can incorporate wellness into our work. 

Can public art be used equitably?

The benefits of public art are plentiful: inspiration, engagement, revitalization, economic development, beauty. Public art has all too often been directly associated with the displacement of families and individuals when used as an economic development tool in historically low-income communities without proper protections in place against displacement. With a well-thought-out anti-displacement strategy in place, public art can be transformative for historically low-income neighborhoods everywhere. The Punto Urban Art Museum, a public art initiative founded by North Shore Community Development Corporation in Salem, Massachusetts, is addressing this head on as we enter a third year of programming. After seeing increased levels of engagement when utilizing arts and creativity in our community organizing work and in a temporary pilot mural project, NSCDC began to take art and placemaking more seriously as a strategy to address the community priority of reducing stigma in the predominantly low-income, majority-minority Point neighborhood.

2018 Council Elections: Voting for Advisory Council Members is Now Open!

Voting closes November 16 at 5:00 pm ET

Monday, October 29, 2018

Americans for the Arts wants our members to elect art professionals from the field to serve on one of four network advisory councils: Arts Education, Emerging Leaders, Private Sector, and Public Art. Voting closes November 16, 2018 at 5:00 pm (ET).

Search Our New and Improved Arts Services Directories

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

You asked, and we listened: Our online Arts Services Directory has expanded to include searchable, topic-driven sub-directories. The new and improved directories will allow you to quickly find all types of arts organizations throughout the United States, as well as narrow your search to specific interest areas.

ARTS Publishes “Capacity Building for Racial Equity in Public Art”

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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Public Art Bootcamp, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture’s award program, is the subject of the publication Capacity Building for Racial Equity in Public Art, which illustrates how public art administrators can shift the field to be more inclusive and effect change by intentionally serving artists from under-represented and under-invested communities. 

Five Reasons Why Public Art Matters

Public art matters to me because I see it as a platform for civic dialogue and as the most democratic of art forms. When done well, a public artwork engages citizens in conversation that can vary from understanding historical and cultural backgrounds, to driving attachment to place and social cohesion. In a world struggling with new ways to connect, public art can make public spaces more approachable. In June of this year, Americans for the Arts worked in collaboration with the 2018 Public Art Network (PAN) Advisory Council to launch “Why Public Art Matters” to provide the field with a tool to help educate community members, local decision makers, and other stakeholders on the value that public art can bring to cities and towns. The resource document provides talking points, reasons, data, and examples of how public art can positively impact a community in five specific areas.

Learning to Listen: The Transformative Power of Collaboration and Nashville’s Learning Lab Artist Training Program

At the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, we like to think of ourselves as a type of strange municipal glue. Meaning, we create points of connection between things that previously existed independent of one another in order to make something new. This also means we spend a lot of time explaining that artists have a unique skillset that can be an asset in any field, not just the arts. When we start these conversations with non-arts organizations we hope to collaborate with, our message is often met with confused faces. Could an artist do more than beautify a physical space? How could an artist work within the juvenile court system or at a public health facility? We ask these questions because we believe public art can be a community investment tool for neighborhood transformation, creative workforce development, and equitable practices throughout our city.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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