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.
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.
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.
Since the beginning of architecture, front door or entrance has been a primary location for symbolic, religious or decorative elements. When mansions, hotels and office buildings were invented, the entrance sequence from plaza, staircase, doorway and lobby became the first experience and taste of the building. This sequence is always complete with art, gardens, lighting and decor of all types. With the invention of plate glass, the outdoor plaza to indoor lobby merged together especially at night.
The Art in Public Art ordinance requires that most new buildings hire public artists to incorporate artworks into the building or site design. So we will look at the successful artworks in the architecture and landscape. In addition to the plazas and landscapes, key typical places include the tops or roofs, the entries and lobbies, the parking garage walls, the second floors and blank walls. The goals is find artistic work that enhance the value of the development for the owner and contribute to the energy and artistic reputation of the city.
The Building Tops
Residents and visitors to every city enjoy “looking up” when there is something there. Rather just a flat roof or a simple pyramid, a sculptural form or digital lighting patterns can distinguish the building and the larger cityscape vista. The artworks can be smoothly integrated or a surprising addition.
Driving and walking around West Palm Beach, several more sculptures were found to be available to the public. Some like Northwood University and MorseLife require signing in with the guard. Other like EmKO visible, but unclear if the owners are OK with wandering around the art. The Armory Art Center and South Florida Science Center and Aquarium are in public parks, so enjoy. Unfortunately for the visitor, only a minority of sculptures have plaques with the names of the artists.
Armory Art Center, 1700 Parker Avenue
South Florida Science Center and Aquarium
4801 Dreher Trail North
EmKO, 2172 South Dixie
MorseLife Senior Residence, 4754 Haverhill Rd N
The title image is “The Wave” by Barbara Grygutis at the Convention Center.