Comments on: Design Approved for Rain Garden Sculptures it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Jeff Hayner Jeff Hayner Tue, 03 Sep 2013 04:44:46 +0000 @ABC I don’t know you from your username, but I suspect we actually are saying the same things. If you want to get in touch with me via my website please do, I always welcome a chance to talk about public art, or any art, for that matter.

By: abc abc Mon, 02 Sep 2013 22:20:11 +0000 “…you have gotten to the heart of the matter, so far we have had place-decorating, not place-making. Not every project needs to be designed to create a place, temporary or permanent, but that is a strong consideration of its potential worth to the city.”

Actually Mr. Hayner we may be saying different things. I don’t consider spaces under bridges, or the sides of bridges, round-a-bouts, or fences on the side of the road, or any particular length of sidewalk, or any man-hole covers as gathering places for the public. And I do not automatically think they have the potential to be gathering places. So I would not criticize the act of putting art on or near these kinds of things as ‘place-decorating’ since there is no place to decorate… in my mind there is no there there.

I also don’t think a public arts commission can ‘make’ places but then can enhance them, if they want to struggle with the details. I would criticize the fountain at city hall as being too small, and too boring, and just something that does not make that place better. And yes that plaza is a place. But it needed something a lot more fun to make you go there and the water needs to be much more present; if you don’t go and walk up right next to it you would never know there was even water involved. So you can’t see, hear or barely feel the water. That makes this water feature just a feature. But had they commissioned a better piece it could have enhanced that place.

By: Jeff Hayner Jeff Hayner Sun, 01 Sep 2013 23:14:00 +0000 @ABC Thank you for your comments, you have gotten to the heart of the matter, so far we have had place-decorating, not place-making. Not every project needs to be designed to create a place, temporary or permanent, but that is a strong consideration of its potential worth to the city. As you point out, the Co-op plaza works. Tony Rosenthal’s “Endeavor” and “Alamo” (aka The Cubes) both work in their places. The Cube is iconic, interactive, delightful- and it has held up. Only time will tell for these current works. The costs for this final crop of “1% art” are excessive for the finished product as presented. This is another way to judge their worth. What else could be done with this money, for arts sake? And how can this ill-conceived idea of demanding a nexus to the source of the funds, which seems like a weak attempt to justify the skimming of funds in the first place, be set aside to improve the chances of a successful outcome on the next project?

It should be clear that I am a supporter of public art, but also a supporter of prudent city spending. I hope that the City Council will consider carefully the worth of these and other projects that are recommended to them for funding by the Public Arts Commission.

By: abc abc Sun, 01 Sep 2013 16:50:38 +0000 After I posted i looked back to see that it went through. The line about having an audience is not the same as just being seen, caused another thought. I realize that this may be a strange concept. It is greatly informed however by considering events like this. [link]

This article “Pearls before breakfast” from the Washington Post is a great exploration of what it means to have an audience, or not, from the perspective of both the artist and the audience. It is a ‘must read’ article if you have never seen it before.

By: abc abc Sun, 01 Sep 2013 16:35:03 +0000 From comment 4 – “…debatable worth…”

There is much that can be debated, including the cost, but it is true that public art costs a good deal of money. It can also be worthy. But that does not mean that all endeavors to make public art will automatically be worthy, regardless of how much, or little, you may pay for it.

What the AAPAC seems to miss, over and over again, is that public art (all art actually) needs an audience; which is not synonymous with, “all art needs to be seen”.

But to have an audience, public art needs to start with a place. If that place is a schoolyard the art may differ wildly than if it is a lobby; depending on the desires of the artist. Duchamp’s ‘fountain’ would have been far less effective if it was anywhere but a museum. As a matter of fact it would have not made sense anywhere else; but then that was the point. By comparison, Picasso’s ‘bull’s head’ and other ‘found object’ sculpture was not a jab to the art world, and museums, and art critics, and makes sense being displayed in other venues.

William Rush, a Philadelphia sculptor who was America’s first public artist, is said to view public art “as the nexus for gathering”. But this concept goes all the back to ancient Rome where gathering spaces were enlivened with all kinds of public art… or did they become gathering spaces because of the addition of the fountain or sculpture? In any case they either were, or could be, gathering spaces.

Here we are considering putting public art under bridges, hanging off of the sides of bridges, in round-a-bouts, in wastewater treatment plants, at bike share centers, on a fence on the side of the road, and on sidewalks and man-hole covers. How will any of these become gathering spaces? Without a gathering space there is no audience, and many artists would agree that without an audience there is no art.

And some of the art that has been made are in weak gathering spaces. The light sculpture is in the lobby of a building with limited access, only visited by people going to court or paying a ticket. The city hall’s fountain sits by the side of a road where few people walk because Huron is a highway and there are few destinations in the area. (BTW I have been watching to see if this plaza and fountain has made a gathering space and I am of the opinion that it has not. I hoped that it would, but whenever I have been there it has been empty and sterile, unlike other outdoor spaces like at the co-op. This, by the way, was somewhat predictable. William Whyte’s work of the 1970’s studying plazas made the observation that choosing between shade and sun at different times of the year is very important. On the south side of city hall all you get is sun most of the day.)

Please know that I am also familiar with all sorts of urban interventions where artists transform seemingly non-gathering spaces by introducing elements that completely change / contradict / interrupt / etc. the expected patterns of city life. This kind of work is mostly commentary on the urban condition. And while it can be very exciting, it rarely, if ever, is the product of a public arts committee, and I do not suspect that the AAPAC has the cojones to hire an artist to intervene like that in any meaningful way.

So I have said it before and I will say it again, as patrons of the arts, which is what the AAPAC has set themselves up to be, the AAPAC needs to have viewpoint, but instead they are all over the board. The AAPAC should have an agenda; anything should not be fair game. I think Mr. Rush’s agenda fits nicely for a public arts commission. And were that to be the filter then when the city approaches them with the idea to put up a pretty fence, the AAPAC says go ahead but that’s not us. When school kids want to paint man-hole covers, the AAPAC says go ahead that’s also not us. And when school kids don’t want to paint the man-hole covers, the AAPAC does nothing because painting them will NOT contribute to a nexus of gathering.

By: Susan Contratto Susan Contratto Sun, 01 Sep 2013 16:17:43 +0000 I am an enormous injoyer (is there such a word) of art in the community be it innovative architecture, historic architecture and public installations of all types. In my opinion people with expertise, a trained eye and a background need to be the deciders. The public lottery cannot be as successful, for example, as those who chose the lakeside park art, and other installations in Chicago.

By: Jeff Hayner Jeff Hayner Sun, 01 Sep 2013 08:49:07 +0000 Thanks to the commission members for all their hard work, but it seems that many questionable decisions were made on these projects. Why have two full-size chairs for Mr. Jewett’s memorial, when so many children loved sitting in his child-sized chairs? How about a big chair and a little chair? Seems like a less expensive, more visually pleasing, family-friendly grouping. Are they going to have a little plaque by each chair warning people that the chairs might be extremly hot from the sun and to sit with caution?

Why are we spending money on canoe art, and potentially over four-hundred thousand dollars on “wastewater nexus” art, when our overworked sanitary and storm sewer systems continue to flood the river and force the closure of the city livery? Could that money be better spent? And what of the families and small businesses that used to purchase those retired city canoes at auction?

The outreach efforts to “create community buy-in” are the least that can be done, since we as a tax paying community have already “bought-in” to the tune of almost one-million dollars, despite the rejection of the 1% percent for art program at the polls.

Since Councilmember Lumm’s effort to return these funds to their rightful place was not successful, I encourage her to try again. Perhaps a resolution could be made to halt the spending of the remaining funds on these large, site-based installations (Stadium Bridge, Argo Cascades, Etc.) that are of debatable worth to the city at large, and instead use the funds to endow the Public Arts program for the long-term. Use the time and money to search out patrons of the arts, to build a community network that supports and promotes local artists; and to finance smaller, community-based projects that will be seen and enjoyed by more people.

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Sun, 01 Sep 2013 00:44:48 +0000 Sheep?

By: Ruth Kraut Ruth Kraut Sat, 31 Aug 2013 21:55:31 +0000 I like the idea of the downtown canoe art. I saw this idea done very successfully (although it was sheep) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Fri, 30 Aug 2013 13:25:42 +0000 So many things about this program that raise questions.

Why must we have a whole group of structures in a natural area? Very carefully placed and selected art in a natural area can enhance the experience, but the point should be – nature. Not clutter. This looks like too many objects in a small area. And rust-brown objects?

Why should we have art associated with a wastewater treatment plant? Do you expect crowds of the public, come to watch our sewage? The whole point of public art should be to enhance the places where the public is.

I’m really, really sorry that Council chose to leave all this in place. Jane Lumm’s efforts to return the money to the originating funds were passed over.