Don’t be afraid of public artwork that strongly demonstrates its origination in ethnic visual traditions. Murals can be show people from different backgrounds or painted in the art traditions of non-western cultures. Why can’t public sculptures be bronze castings of African masks. Why can’t ceramic murals clearly originate in the traditions of Spanish or Moroccan wall and floor tiles?
In the 19th and 20th century, the dominant art establishment and intellectuals believed that progress and newness in art came exclusively from the artistic inventions in Europe and then the Americas. Still today, despite the great respect in museums and universities for all traditions in art, the vast majority of public art is dominated by euro-american art.
One major flaw of public art thinking is that works from other cultural traditions should only be seen in the neighborhoods of those ethnic communities. It is sometimes known as “race matching”. Art about or by African Americans should be seen in African American neighborhoods, not in the center of downtown.
Given the 150 years of public art in the USA and Florida, some catching up may be required in African American, Caribbean, Mexican and South American neighborhoods. Pride in community through public art is still a valuable service.
In the 21st century, many mature and talented artists exist from any cultural or ethnic backgrounds. Many ethnic traditions have been continued by contemporary artists and craftspersons. Perhaps ethnic and cultural diversity in a public art collection is the true new future.
Across the world, artists are now embedding themselves in communities of people before imagining any art or art project. The community and artist work together to discover the kinds of projects that address areas of community concern. The artist provides the leadership to bring people together that might not connecting at the moment. Then the artist imagines art projects that the community implements together.
These artists work under a number of names including Socially Engaged Artists, Social Practice, Artist-in-Residence or Community Artists. Several American universities offer special training in this cultural role for artists.
We have seen the paradigm shift of our entire culture entering the Digital Age. I see an aspect of Public Art employing more “Screen” based projects. Who knows where the future will be in terms of “substrate,” but the idea of monitor display on a surface should be considered for a city of sustainable technology.
In March 2012 three years ago, the AiPP Committee endorsed the idea constructing in brick an Ann Norton sculpture as major significant public artwork in West Palm Beach. Only thru the fence at the Norton Sculpture Garden can you see parts of her sculptures.
In 2014, the AiPP Committee and City Commission “unreserved” the funds for the project on Okeechobee as rendered below. During the master plan process, they would re-examine the project that would include other locations and different scales. Now is that time.
More information on Ann Norton on this blog, click here. Also information of an program idea to purchase works by long-time WPB artist, click here.
Forward to your friends! For the April 22, 2015, Community Meeting on the AiPP Master Plan, please send us your ideas to ibiARTwestpalm@gmail.com. We will add them to the discussion list next week and post them online.
All this week new ideas will be posted with a summary distributed and chance to vote in a survey in Monday and Tuesday next week. Ideas to be posted this week: Artist in Residence in a Neighborhood, Ann Norton Sculpture, Art on Quadrille at new downtown train station, Art in Parks, Culturally Diverse Artworks, Bi-annual “submit your idea for public art” competition, etc, etc…..
Artists across the world are contributing ideas and works of art to help make our built environment more sustainable. In south Florida, improvements to reduce electrical use in building and smart uses of rain water are particularly important. Most art projects are equal parts reality and poetry to remind the public about the need to change and a symbol to tenants or buyers about the environmental concerns of the owner.
As lack of basic exercise has contributed to a decline in American health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trust and others have funded research and programs to increase healthy living in the cities. Active Living by Design and Health Impact Project are programs looking at urban design, building design and urban policies that encourage exercise. Many of Knight Foundation “Cities Challenge” and “Art Challenge” grants results in more activity use of the city.
These ideas match with the desires of new residents and employee to activate downtowns. Instead of only the gym, the new generation enjoys using the public spaces of the city for walking, biking, jogging, dancing and games. Below are public art projects that developers might consider to expand physical (and social) activity around the site and building.
Urban Swings: Boston and Montreal
Encourage Walking on Stairs
Watch/Listen to the Video of Piano Stairs in Sweden
In 1994, the City of West Palm agreed with the family of Henry Rolfs, Sr. to honor his contribution to the City with a sculpture in the median of Okeechobee Blvd. Artist Marsha Montoya Meyer made the statue that welcomes visitors to West Palm at the intersection of Tamarind/Parker and Okeechobee.
Mr. Rolfs and his partner David Paladino were responsible for consolidating all the 77 acres that eventually became City Place, the Kravis Center and the Convention Center. Without their visionary purchases, it is very unlikely that City Place would exist. Unfortunately for Rolfs and Paladino, the economic downturns of the late 1980s and early 1990s ruined their opportunity to complete their vision and the land was acquired by the City.
In our community discussions on public art, we learned that most people don’t know anything about the sculpture. If they have thought about it, then most assume it is second memorial to Henry Flagler. Part of the reason for the lack of knowledge is that sculpture is undersized for the site and almost no pedestrians cross at this location to learn about Mr. Rolfs.
Given the contribution of Mr. Rolfs, the sculpture seems better located near or in City Place. Pedestrian could enjoy the artwork and read information about Mr. Rolfs’ life and activities in West Palm.
What do you think? Should the sculpture be moved or remain in place?
In every city, county and state, artwork by some of the long time resident artists with exceptional careers not been purchase for the public art collection. These artists are the artistic foundation of the community and deserve to be celebrated and remembered long into the future.
Some of these artists work in durable materials suitable for public art, but many are painters, printmakers, photographers, filmmakers, digital artists, etc. Others like ceramic artists may never have worked a large scale. But with today’s many fabrication techniques, their artworks can be transformed into the public works.
An “Honors Public Art Program” would select a living or deceased artist each year to purchase/commission and display her/his artwork in public space or buildings. In City Hall, a permanent board would recognize the artists commissioned in the program.
For example, a similar program was operated in Seattle in the 1980s & 1990s. Below are two examples of public artworks by prominent resident painters: Jacob Lawrence and Michael Spafford. Lawrence is porcelain enamel and Spafford is concrete panels.
The artwork of Bruce Helander, inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2014, is used for the header.