Public Art was always an important issue for me, though in our economic decline I see now more than ever the potential for public art programs in our cities and how they can lift up communities emotionally, aesthetically and better yet: economically. Let’s get on with it!
Round 2 of my Thesis extravaganza! Enjoy!
Creative Curation: Uniting Public Art and the Theory of Creative Tourism to Increase Boston Arts Exposure
New York City and Public Art
Charging Bull on Wall Street. The Needle threading a Button on 7th Ave, the Fashion District. Alice in Wonderland in Central Park. Prometheus at Rockefeller Center. Each of these names will commonly bring up memories of childhood, or iconic film moments, or even an art piece seen on television a thousand times over. If each of these works of public art makes one nostalgic, it means New York City has done everything right by way of keeping art in the public?s eye; free and accessible.
The Public Art Fund
New York City is known as a cultural hub in the United States and the reason for this is not accident or happenstance, but rather a very targeted, very strategic move to not only enhance the city?s once drab landscape, but to attract travelers from around the world to visit this art destination. A varied approach to funding the arts, specifically public art, has made a noticeable difference in the city backdrop since the 1970s and much of the honor should go to the Public Art Fund (PAF). This Fund is the leading commissioner and presenter of New York?s artists? projects and for over thirty years has introduced more than 500 artists? works throughout the city. Since its inception in 1977, the Public Art Fund has launched a variety of projects challenging local artists to move their work out of the traditional gallery or museum and into the public realm. Past project participants and artists include Paul McCartney, Anish Kapoor, Andy Goldsworthy, Alexander Calder, Alexander Brodsky, Keith Haring and Dana Friedman.
While the Public Art Fund works to assist artists who create works for public consumption, there are a number of planned projects that go on to actively engage the artists and the community. These projects include the In The Public Realm project in which emerging artists work with the PAF to flesh out concepts submitted over the course of a year. Selected artists receive awards depending on where they are in the course of the contest: $1000 is awarded to each of the ten artists selected to further develop their concepts as recognized by the PAF, and $15,000 is awarded to each of the three artists whose work is strong enough to be realized and installed. Another project is the Public Art Fund Talks in which one to three artists with a common medium are chosen to speak about their work to the public over the course of a few months, actively engaging the public with the work they see every day or during the course of a special presentation.
The Percent for Art program in New York has successfully engaged the public and the arts in a manner that is not only fiscally conservative but also culturally relevant and economically beneficial.
This is a vital piece of the puzzle that should be utilized by fellow cities when planning for a public art resource center or fund; organizing specific programs for Call to Artists, group projects and the like will help maintain a level of structure that otherwise would be lost if the organization just allowed artists to submit ideas for work at any time. Without this structure it is likely that the organization would be bombarded with non- uniform proposals, far too much variety of mediums, subjects and scale, and most likely too little of the actual information a city needs before deciding on a work of public art. Specific calls, such as Request for Qualifications and Request for Proposals, with details and convoluted instructions can also help an organization “weed out? the artists not willing to, or capable of, follow those instructions properly.
Another vital piece of the puzzle is the public itself. Engaging the public is as important to establishing a public art program as finding the right artists to participate; creating a dialogue between the art and the public there will create far less contention when works are installed as an understanding of the work, the process and the artist is already established. By creating a community development focus a city can further embolden its cultural and creative dedication, potentially providing means for the establishment of public funds for maintenance or Adopt-a-Statue type programs. If the community backs the public works project, it is sure that things will run much more smoothly and the excitement of a project will be palpable.
One of the most reported on and widely-known public art installations in New York City is The Gates, by artists Jean-Claude and Christo. This project included 7,500 “gates? consisting of free-hanging, saffron fabric panels hanging from seven feet above the ground in Central Park. These gates were then placed along the walkways of the park so visitors could enjoy their normal strolls, runs, carriage rides and bike rides through the park while experiencing first-hand the union of art and environment. The work was enjoyed only for a short time, from February 12, 2005 to February 27, 2005, but had made its mark in the city?s public art memory, further establishing New York?s international appeal as a city that provides bold and brilliant public art works.
Interestingly, this project was not sponsored by any organization – corporate or otherwise – and was done entirely free of expense to the public. While this is not generally common for public art, approaching the city with a zero bill and employment opportunities for citizens (to erect, maintain and disassemble the structures) was the fastest way for the city to agree to such a massive installation. What is more remarkable is the power the work had, not just on the public, but for the city. In the fifteen days the installation was up, New York City netted over 4 million new tourists and over $254 million in economic activity. That is nearly $17 million dollars in additional revenue to the city each day and over 266,000 visitors a day staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and seeing other sites around the city. Of the enormously successful installation Mayor Bloomberg had to say this:
“The Gates showcased Central Park and New York City to visitors from around the globe and promoted tourism to the ‘World’s Second Home’….Innovative public art has the ability to evoke discussion and debate. We are pleased with the excitement and economic activity The Gates generated throughout the entire City. I would like to thank Christo and Jeanne-Claude for their patience and tenacity in realizing their dream and sharing The Gates with all of us.”
Percent for Art
In 1982, New York City initiated their Percent for Art program in which one percent of the budget for “eligible City-funded construction projects be spent on artworks for City facilities38”. This program ensures that each new building erected is guaranteed to house, either within its public interior space or outside in a public space (like courtyard or front of building), works of art of various mediums and scale. Run by the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Percent for Art program has helped create 228 projects with 69 currently underway, and the commission plans to commission up to 16 new projects for 2010. These works include paintings, sculptures, mosaics, light installations and drawings each created by emerging artists living in New York City.
Funding for this program is currently covered under law in New York City, further demonstrating the city’s commitment to serving the arts in the community as well as its understanding of the cultural and financial impact public art has on citizens and tourists alike and the corporate benefits of participating in such a program. To maintain public interest in the program, the Department of Cultural Affairs allows panelists to be nominated by friends, neighbors and citizens to assist the Department in the process of choosing and awarding commission to artists. Depending on the building project that accompanies it, commissions for each project range from $50,000 to $400,000 with an artist fee of 20% of the art allocation. Public art projects for the Percent for Art program can range from spaces in schools, parks, water treatment plants, libraries, day care centers, or any building place funded by the city.
New York City netted over 4 million new tourists and over $254 million in economic activity. That is nearly $17 million dollars in additional revenue to the city each day and over 266,000 visitors a day
The Percent for Art program in New York has successfully engaged the public and the arts in a manner that is not only fiscally conservative but also culturally relevant and economically beneficial. Other cities would do well to adopt this strategy for funding the arts to encourage cultural growth and tourism, and this includes Boston which is not yet utilizing such a program. The possibility of stimulating creative tourism and appreciation for the arts is too great for a project such as this to go underutilized.